Restaurant Development & Design

January-February 2017

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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1 4 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7 TREND The Boom in Restaurant-Distilleries Social Still Bethlehem, Penn. "It's a unique business model," says Adam Flatt, who co-owns Social Still with his wife, Kate. The "gastro-distill- ery," as he calls it, is a "Frankenstein experience" that sets itself apart from other craft distilleries and the city's thriving restaurant scene by combining distilling and dining housed in a histori- cal Prohibition-era bank building. "Americans are looking for new and unusual experiences beyond just trying and buying a new spirit," says Flatt. "Social Still is a unique night out and dining experience that cannot be repli- cated anywhere else." The setup is also a way to increase exposure of the spirits with signature cocktails and sophisti- cated food menus for a sampling experi- ence that goes beyond the usual tasting room. Currently, there are eight expres- sions, including vault-aged bourbon, jalapeno vodka and hop gin, sourced from Pennsylvania grains and matured in rickhouses — the bank's vaults. "And there is nothing more stun- ning than a 100-year-old bank," adds Flatt. With Social Still, he believes he is giving the historical building a new chapter and new identity. And even though the gastro-distillery opened in 2014, customers get the feeling that the place has been around forever. "This history has been lent to us; it's part of our identity now." Because the bank is on the National Register of Historic Places, there were strict regulations and restrictions on pres- ervation during renovation. Every step in the process had to be authenticated. "A huge part of the choice for the building was that it was tall enough to house the still," says Flatt. The bank's ceiling is 22 feet high; the still is 20 feet tall. "We just barely squeaked in here." Equipment consists of a 1,200-liter pot still with two separate distilling columns and a gin basket as well as a mash tun — all custom-made. Flooring was reinforced with extra steel beams to hold the weight of the still — and the liquid inside. A glass wall was constructed around the production area so that BY THOMAS HENRY STRENK, Contributing Editor C raft distilling is hugely popular and enjoying unprecedented growth — there are 1,315 U.S. craft distillers, accord- ing to the American Craft Spirits Association. Pair this trend with the popularity of gastropubs, and you've got the unique experience of customers enjoying on-trend pub fare while taking pleasure in the drama of seeing spirits made before their eyes, sampling it straight or enjoying a craft cocktail. As exciting as this idea is for both operators and customers, creating these hybrid concepts presents some daunting design and construction chal- lenges. These include building blast- proof rooms with alcohol-vapor sensors, high-flow fire-suppression systems and blow-out panels. Oh, and you may have to get a law passed first. Photo courtesy of Social Still

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