Stranahan's owner plans to build $50 million whiskey resort in Black Hawk - By Ed SealoverProximo Spirits, parent company to Stranahan’s and Tincup Whiskey, plans to build a $50 million, 20-acre whiskey production facility and resort in Black Hawk that will represent the greatest-ever diversification to the casino town’s economy — if it can get past a lawsuit filed Wednesday by neighboring Central City that hopes to stop the project. Black Hawk City Council members voted unanimously just hours after the lawsuit was filed to annex 221.86 acres on the southeast corner of town that is owned by RSM Partners LLC and will be home to the new Lake Gulch Whiskey Resort. While the new distillery — which would be the largest distillery in Colorado — will take up about 5% of the land, and resort amenities ranging from a hotel to an axe-throwing course will take up another 5%, the rest of the property will go to uses ranging from housing to public facilities to open space. Black Hawk Mayor David Spellman characterized the resort as a long-planned shot in the arm the one-time mining town has sought to grow beyond the casinos that have made up almost all of its employment base and tax revenue since the state legalized them in 1991. Particularly now — as Gov. Jared Polis has shut down all casinos until at least April 30 along with other gathering areas to try to slow the spread of coronavirus — the need for a diversified tax base has never been more obvious or needed, and Proximo is willing to move ahead despite the global economic uncertainty, albeit without a specific construction timeframe, he said. “What we will see here today is a bit of blue sky and a few rays of sunshine in an otherwise bleak time,” Spellman told council members who met virtually rather than at City Hall. “With what we are dealing with today in the country, a lesser company would have delayed this public hearing if not pulled the plug on a project like this altogether.” Proximo, however, has spent significant time meeting with Black Hawk leaders and negotiating the details of the project, including one back-and- forth session that concluded with company and local leaders doing shots of Tincup, Spellman acknowledged. And company leaders who presented at the meeting said they are committed to the project.
The facility would be built for production and bottling of Tincup, a quickly growing American whiskey that now is distilled in Indiana due to a lack of space in the Stranahan’s building in Denver before being brought west to age and then get cut with Colorado water. The distillery and visitors center would employ 45 full-time and 40 part-time workers, will use 100,000 gallons of water a day and is expected to attract 60,000 visitors per year, said Rodrigo Braun, distillery brand experience director for New Jersey-based Proximo, a company whose brands also include Jose Cuervo, Bushmills Irish Whiskey and Three Olives vodka.
In addition to the distillery, the property will include a hotel and camping grounds, restaurants, event space, retail, an outdoor amphitheater and outdoor activities such a hiking trails, ziplines and a farm, Braun said. The planned-unit development OK’d Wednesday by the council also allows for single-family homes, townhouses and multifamily development, according to Ethan Watel, a planner with Baseline Engineering Corp.
Both the Gilpin County Commission and Gilpin County Board of Education offered their support for the project, noting the tax revenues it will bring to the area and the new range of businesses it will bring to a town that already is starting to see new hotel development, such as the $442 million investment that Monarch Casino & Resort Inc. (Nasdaq: MCRI) is making in its property. County commissioner Ron Engels told the City Council Wednesday that the current shutdown in business because of coronavirus shows “how fragile our dependence on a single economic driver is.” “This will be the largest distillery in the whole state of Colorado,” Braun emphasized after architects said they plan to construct it in a way that fits the historic town, using wood, metal and rustic materials and giving it the form of a traditional mining structure. “It’s ambitious, and we’re going to make it happen.”