Black Hawk bets on free land offer to attract breweries and distilleries

The mountains of Colorado have always been full of promise. Whether the goal is gold and silver, beaver pelts, ski resorts or casinos, people have climbed the hills to follow money, dreams and passions – or die trying.

The town of Black Hawk is no stranger to these impulses: Founded as a mining colony during the Gold Rush of 1859, it was granted the right to offer casino games – just like Central City and Cripple Creek. – in 1991, and has since grown into a high-rise resort town offering blackjack, roulette and slot machines.

But city leaders have another bet in mind, one that plays on Black Hawk’s already adult-centric vibe while diversifying its economy and attracting a different, perhaps younger, population. And they’re willing to put a lot at stake – a lot of money – to make this a reality.

The project is called Artisans’ Point, which targets 22 acres of largely undeveloped land above the city on Gregory Hill. But in the not-so-distant future, city officials and Mayor David Spellman would like to fill Artisans’ Point with a dozen newly built distilleries and breweries, each producing their own liquid assets on site as part of a collective of companies. of drinks for adults.

Click to enlarge

Artisans’ Point will include eight to ten breweries and distilleries on 22 acres.

Black Hawk Town

The idea is to expand the city’s tourism offering as well as its tax revenue base – a notion that has become more pressing after the pandemic of casino closures for many months last year – but in a way that will “complete the game and not compete with it,” Spellman says.

“As we become a resort destination where people come for two or three night stays, it might attract people who may not necessarily want to sit in front of a slot machine,” he continues. And after filling up on whiskey and beer, they might choose to stay in one of the hotels and even play some of the newer casino games that are now legal, like keno and higher stakes baccarat. students.

Artisans’ Point would also serve as a gateway – an aperitif, even – to an even larger whiskey-themed adult playground just up the road: a twenty-acre, $ 50 million distillery envisioned by Proximo Spirits, the owner of Tincup American Whiskey, a brand that was established in 2014 as a sort of Colorado-themed sister of famous Colorado whiskey maker Stranahan’s, which Proximo also now owns.

Tincup will have its own distillery in Black Hawk.  - TINCUP / FACEBOOK AMERICAN WHISKEY

Tincup will have its own distillery in Black Hawk.

American whiskey Tincup / Facebook

Despite its branding, Tincup is actually made in Indiana – before being finished and bottled in Colorado, which drew criticism from whiskey fans. Thus, the Black Hawk project, called Lake Gulch Whiskey Resort, would remedy this problem while creating a regional tourist destination, even national, which could attract more than 60,000 people per year.

In addition to the distillery, this project – which will be built in three phases – could eventually include a restaurant and event space, an outdoor amphitheater and some sort of overnight accommodation.

Proximo spokeswoman Jennifer Webb declined to comment, saying it was too early to talk about details, but the New Jersey-based company, which also owns or imports brands like Jose Cuervo, 1800 Tequila, Bushmills, Kraken and Three Olives Vodka now owns over 300 acres in Black Hawk, and in early 2020, another Proximo representative told the Denver Business Journal that there could also be retail stores, a hotel, a campsite, hiking trails, ziplines and even a farm on this land.

Black Hawk Mayor David Spellman.  - EVAN SEMÓN

Black Hawk Mayor David Spellman.

Evan Semón

Construction on Lake Gulch likely won’t begin until late 2022 at the earliest, but Black Hawk is hoping to attract tenants for Artisans’ Point now – or at least pique their interest. To do this, the city is spending $ 6 million to bring water and sewer lines to Artisans’ Point and to pave or repav the roads. It spent an additional $ 5 million to upgrade its water tanks: Tincup itself will need at least 100,000 gallons per day in its first year alone, Spellman says, and could use up to 450,000. gallons per day the third year.

But here’s the fun part: The town owns 16 of the 22 acres at Artisans’ Point – and it wants to give that mountain land for free to anyone who agrees to build on the designated lots, which range from one to four acres. Black Hawk will also waive its water faucet and water fitting fees, and offer tax reductions on building materials, furniture, fixtures and equipment.

This offer could have a revealing value of $ 500,000 to $ 600,000 per building, says Brandon White, owner of Built Construction, a general contractor who has worked with at least two dozen Colorado breweries and distilleries over the past eight years. . Built in September on Artisans’ Point’s planned first occupant, the Rick Thomas Distillery. Owned by former Black Hawk casino manager Brian Watts and his family, it will feature a 6,903 square foot distillery and faucet room, and 5,000 square feet of barrel storage. The company plans to release its first Scottish-style whiskeys in 2023.

Click to enlarge Built Construction opened the foundation stone for the Rick Thomas Distillery in September.  - BUILT CONSTRUCTION

Built Construction opened the foundation stone for the Rick Thomas Distillery in September.

Built construction

“Black Hawk is a really exciting and unique place, and the tax dollars from the casinos allow the city to fund some really cool infrastructure and projects,” White said. “They do a lot more than any other city or town to get a bunch of businesses started like this.

Of course, nothing in life, and especially in the high countries, is truly free, and Spellman admits that. “Developing here at Black Hawk – that’s the price of the resort when it comes to construction. That’s why we’re helping with incentives,” the mayor said.

So far, several breweries and distilleries have taken a peek or shown some interest, but none – other than the Rick Thomas Distillery – have yet signed up.

One of the reasons for this, says Sean Guerrero of Jade Mountain Brewery & Teahouse, is that Black Hawk may have overestimated what small manufacturers can afford to spend.

While Guerrero was, and still is, excited about Black Hawk’s potential, and even has potential investors, he also thinks it’s too risky to get involved at this early stage. “We looked at two acres and got a lot of cool ideas,” like a small garden and a Chinese temple, he says.

Click to enlarge Sean Guerrero of the Jade Mountain Brewery.  - JONATHAN SHIKE

Sean Guerrero of the Jade Mountain Brewery.

Jonathan shike

But he’s not yet sure he’s ready to take the plunge. “Getting people from downtown Denver to Aurora is hard enough,” he says; the current location of the brewery, which opened in May, is at 4233 South Buckley Road in Aurora. “We would be alone up there until Tincup opens, and there’s no beer scene there. Craft beer is hard to find in casinos.”

Guerrero estimates it would cost around $ 3 million to build a brewery or distillery at Artisans’ Point, even with all the incentives. “It looks good on paper… but it’s more than most little guys can afford,” he says. “I think it’s going to be harder than they think.”

Spellman is aware of the concerns and notes that some potential occupants of the development may also be concerned about the effects and timing of Tincup’s construction, which is why Black Hawk has been slow to push its marketing efforts. Yet, he says, “we think we are in a unique position. … There is nothing like it elsewhere to our knowledge.

He also thinks Tincup’s estimate of 60,000 visitors per year is low. “We could easily double that,” he concludes. “We haven’t proven it yet, but we are extremely confident.”

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