May 20, 2019 – In a major expansion, Venus Spirits has broken ground on a new craft distillery, tasting room and restaurant adjacent to its current location on the west side of Santa Cruz.
“We’re building a space where we can share our brand with more customers and allow them to stay longer,” says owner Sean Venus. The new distillery will take up the middle of the 11,500 square foot building, with a 100-seat restaurant on one end and a new tasting room on the other end, offering distillery tours every half hour.
Venus explains that his company was transformed by a change in the law in 2016 allowing craft distilleries to hold tastings and sell their products to consumers directly from the distillery. With the ability to come in and taste cocktails made with his popular gin, agave spirits and whiskeys, the brand has developed a loyal local following and Venus would like to be able to expand throughout Northern California.
The restaurant, designed by the Stripe Design Group, will be cocktail-focused with a full kitchen for making bar snacks, small plates, fresh salads and sharable entrees. While still looking for a head chef, Venus has enlisted friend Matt McNamara of Pretty Good Advice to help design the kitchen space.
Popular Venus Spirits cocktails will be on the menu, like the Garden of Eden—a gimlet made with Gin Blend No. 1, cucumber and basil—and Life’s Tricky, which is made with Gin Blend No. 2, pineapple orgeat and spiced syrup. But he also plans to feature spirits from fellow craft distillers, such as Spirit Works in Sebastopol, Blinking Owl in Santa Ana and Diablo’s Shadow from Sutherland Distilling in Livermore.
The bar will also debut a new Venus Spirits rum that is currently resting in barrels.
The tasting room will move from its current location and include a bottle shop, with tours of the distillery running on a regular basis. Both the restaurant and the tasting room will include outdoor patio seating.
The distillery will have capacity to produce 50,000 cases annually, which is quite a jump from the 7,000 cases a year currently produced, but Venus says he wants growth to happen slowly and “organically.”
“Having the restaurant gives us a little more flexibility in the way we do business,” he says, acknowledging that it’s going to require a big staff to run the expanding company. But he’s sold on the neighborhood and the new Delaware Addition development he will be part of.
“We’re moving into an area that is not yet completely developed, but the west side is unique in having a good industrial vibe to it and lots of people working nearby and being in the middle of a residential neighborhood.”
“This new space will not only allow us to meet a growing demand for our spirits, but will allow us to grow stronger and deepen the connections with our community,” he says.
If all goes to plan, opening is expected in May, 2020.
Deborah Luhrman is publisher and editor of Edible Monterey Bay. A lifelong journalist, she has reported from around the globe, but now prefers covering our flourishing local food scene and growing her own vegetables in the Santa Cruz Mountains.