CHS has learned that a new contract for the two-year-old distillery to produce “minis” of its vodka, gin and rum for Alaska Airlines has Sun hopping across E Pike to create a new bottling facility across the street next to Kaladi Brothers Coffee and Gay City.
“We didn’t ever want to go into a factory in an industrial part of town where people couldn’t really see us,” Sun’s Michael Klebeck tells CHS about the easy decision to take the vacant retail and office space across the street from where Sun Liquor opened its second location in 2010 and its distillery — the first legal distillery to open on Capitol Hill since prohibition — in 2011.
The move — or non-move — provides a counterpoint to a business like Fran’s Chocolates that CHS just reported is planning to move its 40-worker production facility to Georgetown.
The new E Pike bottling line will be powered up and running within two weeks as the project rapidly comes together and Sun takes its most buzzworthy leap forward as a business. Klebeck, who created the Top Pot doughnut chain with his brother Mark, estimates that creating the minis represents a sudden 50% increase in production for the distillery as it ramps up to meet the airline’s needs. In the meantime, the Sun crew has already been digging in on the new mini project in the previous bottling and labeling space smashed into the distillery building.
The new bottling facility across the street won’t quite be on full public display along E Pike as the windows have already been mostly covered with vinyl but Klebeck said you’ll be able to get a peek through the large front doors of the busy, seven-day-a-week production underway inside.
“The line is pretty much fully automated, starts off with a turntable, ends on a 4-foot turntable,” Klebeck said. “Cleaning, filling, capping, labeling all in one swoop.”
Klebeck said he is extremely proud and humbled by the Alaska contract. Sun vied against dozens of other distilleries in the state for the business, he said. The Sun expansion, he says, is a good sign for Capitol Hill’s craft distilleries including Oola which opened at 14th and Union late in 2011.
“This is a good opportunity,” Klebeck said. “We don’t want to screw it up.”
Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines passengers’ gains can also soon be yours. Expect Sun minis to be for sale to the general public, too, at around $3 a pop.
You can learn more at sunliquor.com.