By now, the idea of a food hall or market hall is familiar territory in Denver, with collective eateries like Avanti Food & Beverage, Zeppelin Station, Denver Central Market and Milk Market popping up in recent months and years. But what about a booze hall? Or, more accurately, Booz Hall, the name of a new Colorado wine and spirits collective at 2845 Walnut Street in RiNo.
Booz Hall is the latest effort from Josh Sampson, the founder of TheBigWonderful and Denver Bazaar, and his business partner, Brad Lewis. Taking over a rambling warehouse space that was previously a vintage furniture store, Booz Hall brings four Colorado distilleries and one winemaker together under one roof, along with retail shops and art installations.
"What I'm going for is a booze complex that does everything else, because we've already seen everything with beer," Sampson explains. "We just need new things instead of cannibalizing the same old things."
Each producer has been signed to a seven-month lease, and Sampson adds that the hall will be an incubator, so some of the vendors may stay on for a new lease while new companies come in to fill vacant spaces. The opening lineup includes Jackrabbit Hill, a winery in Hotchkiss on the Western Slope; Woods High Mountain Distillery from Salida; State 38 Distilling from Golden; Rising Sun Distillery from Denver; and 3 Hundred Days of Shine, a distillery in Monument specializing in re-creating a historic style of white whiskey made with beet sugar.
Each maker has its own bar, where only samples, full pours and mixed drinks from that maker are served. Because of distillery and winery liquor-license laws, each bar (and its surrounding tables) is considered a separate tasting room, so drinks can't be carried between bars. Tape lines on the floor let customers know where they can and can't carry beverages, but otherwise, they're free to stroll through the space to take in the murals and other art on display, or visit Goose & the Goat Shoes, which sells footwear and accessories, and Red Wolf Collective, an art gallery with rotating pieces for sale.
Sampson's projects to-date have fallen well outside the standard restaurant, bar or retail spaces that city officials are accustomed to dealing with, but the entrepreneur says he didn't encounter any difficulties when applying for the right license to open Booz Hall. "Because it's never been done, the State of Colorado really hand-held us and were really supportive," he notes, adding that city and state agencies were enthusiastic about helping Colorado-made products receive more attention in Denver.
He also points out that sitting at each bar gives guests a chance to hear the stories of each producer's owners — like Michael Girard, a military veteran who got his start making moonshine while stationed in Afghanistan, or Lance Hanson, founder of Jackrabbit Hill Farm, which in addition to wine produces some of the very few biodynamic ciders in North America.
"Mostly, we just want to be someplace fun for Denver," Hanson says, joking that "we're all about handmade, authentic fun."
Booz Hall is open from 4 p.m. to close (exact closing hours haven't been determined) Tuesday through Sunday, and will be adding food trucks later this summer. For more details, see the Booz Hall website.
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