Sun Liquor Distillery is moving production off Capitol Hill in order to keep up with demand, but owner Michael Klebeck hopes to keep his bottle shop and bar open on East Pike for some time.
“We hate moving. Moving is just so hard,” Klebeck said. “Just the tanks were a nightmare alone.”
Sun Liquor Lounge opened in 2006, and Klebeck decided to do his own distilling two years later. He moved the distillery into space next door 3 1/2 years ago, when Sun Liquor began making miniature liquor bottles for Alaska Airlines.
“That definitely was the main component of, ‘OK, let’s rent another big space and do this production,’” Klebeck said. “There’s no stopping, people want their liquor on the plane.” He added Alaska’s recent acquisition of Virgin America is keeping Sun Liquor very busy.
The distillery increased size dramatically, from 400 to 3,500 square feet, after partnering with Alaska.
“We thought that would be more than enough,” he said, “but as the years went by, we realized we probably needed twice as much space.”
Sun Liquor is also now distributing in nine states.
Then there’s the aged eggnog Sun Liquor has been serving up since the beginning, and started bottling three years ago. Klebeck said he needed a 500-square-foot walk-in fridge just for that.
“Also, it’s become a big part of our history, as we started bottling and distilling,” he said, “and now it’s something people even outside of the Seattle area are asking about.”
Klebeck said Sun Liquor anticipates producing 20,000 bottles of eggnog this year.
With ongoing discussions for another arena in SODO, Klebeck said it was hard to find a property that wasn’t available on a month-to-month lease. He lucked upon a large space behind the University Village, at 4612 Union Bay Place N.E., as the leasing sign was being put up, Klebeck said.
It has high ceilings, “concrete everything” and room for loading and unloading, which had always been problematic around East Pike, he said.
The bar and bottle shop will stay in Capitol Hill for now, Klebeck said. He wants to add a tasting room next to the new distillery in the future.
“We always hoped that we could keep that bottle shop there. It’s a little challenging, you know, running back and forth,” Klebeck said. “We thought maybe we find a partner or maybe one of our current managers to just focus on the bar.”
Sun Liquor distills two styles of gin, two styles of rum, a vodka, and several bitters, with another on the way.
Sun Liquor Bottle Shop is at 516 E. Pike St. Find out more at sunliquor.com.