Bendistillery Inc. is returning to downtown Bend, turning a storefront at 1024 NW Bond St. into a tasting room, a company executive said Thursday.
“Our goal is to help people create a connection with the Crater Lake brand,” said Bendistillery CEO Alan Dietrich. “We want people to come in, sample our product, shop through our logo items and hopefully come up to the distillery and take a tour.”
Bendistillery, based on Pinehurst Road, northwest of Tumalo, makes vodka, gin and whiskey under the Crater Lake label.
The future tasting room is tucked between the Deschutes Brewery & Public House and Cafe Sintra. Dietrich said the tasting room itself will occupy about 2,000 square feet, with another 1,000 square feet for storage and restrooms. He declined to specify his lease rate, but said that, for Bend, it’s reasonable.
“We’re truly just a tasting room,” Dietrich said. “I don’t know if anyone is doing a true tasting room” for distilled liquors in Bend.
More than a dozen distilleries in Oregon hold licenses to provide samples of their product for tastings, although not all distilleries operate separate tasting rooms. In Bend, Thomas & Sons provides samples of its distilled tea at Townshend’s Teahouse, an affiliated company, at 835 NW Bond St.
In Portland, Wild Roots and House Spirits have tasting rooms separate from their distilleries, for example, and Rogue Spirits operates one in Independence.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission issues a specific distillery tasting license that allows one producer to have as many as five locations for tasting rooms other than the distillery itself, said OLCC spokeswoman Christie Scott. The distiller may sell sealed containers of spirits to retail customers at those sites. Dietrich said Crater Lake products will be sold on Bond Street.
The location signals Bendistillery’s return to downtown Bend, where the company got its start as a tasting room in 1996 at 852 NW Brooks St., near Riverfront Plaza. Bendistillery occupied that space for 15 years, Dietrich said Thursday.
Then one Friday night, he said, when a large crowd had spilled into the street, an OLCC agent showed up and declared the tasting room a bar, which requires a license for on-premise sales. The distillery later moved its tasting room and other operations to the 24 rural acres it occupies today.
“We’re actually happy not having a bar with food service and liability,” Dietrich said, “but as Bend evolves and grows, and more and more things are happening downtown, and the Bend Ale Trail has brought attention to beverage-based tourism, downtown has become more attractive.”
Tasting rooms may offer up to 2.5 ounces of spirits per person per day, according to OLCC regulations. Distilleries may charge a fee. Dietrich said the distillery provides free samples of spirits but sells small cocktails for $3.
The Oregon Legislature this year expanded the law on tasting rooms to allow two or more distillers to operate one together, Scott said.
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