If Orlando Meats can move to Winter Park there’s no reason Winter Park Distilling Company can’t move to Orlando.
That’s about to happen. WPDC and its companion business, Bear and Peacock Brewery, will vacate the Orange Avenue premises they moved into just four years ago and will become part of a business venture that will feature a food truck park at the corner of Parramore Avenue and Robinson Street. The business is currently working under the name 639 Robinson. Sources said it will have a building with the brewery and distillery plus a cocktail lounge with an outdoors area that will feature "several dozen food trucks on a semi-permanent basis."
Winter Park Distilling’s co-owner Andrew Asher, pictured above in 2017, said Monday that the move will allow the boutique liquor producer to increase its production facilities for both the distillery and the brewery, which operated in Winter Park under the portmanteau Brewstillery. Asher said the Orange Avenue facility’s lease was due to end at the end of this month; the new operation is expected to be open sometime this fall.
When asked about the logistics of moving all the tanks and other equipment to a new location, especially after a relatively short time in its current home, Asher said that moving everything will be easy to move. Once the facility has the proper amperage and plumbing required for a brewery and distillery, the equipment can be moved quickly because nothing was permanently installed.
The food truck facility will feature a full cocktail bar, something the group wasn’t legally able to have in Winter Park. However, the bar will have to order the Winter Park Distilling’s products through a distributor along with all its other inventory.
But Winter Park Distilling Company can still have a window where patrons can purchase a limited amount of bottles. Because of liquor law restrictions, a distillery can’t pour the liquids it distills. And thanks to lobbying from major retailers, the State of Florida limits the number of bottles the onsite store can sell. And each purchase must be registered in a logbook, like you were trying to purchase Allegra-D or some other controlled substance at a pharmacy.
WPDC may have another means of distribution soon. Asher said the company is partnering with a retailer in Washington, D.C., that will sell its Genius Vodka direct to consumers through mail order, and if that is successful, the company’s rum and whiskey products will follow. Florida, however, is not one of the retailer’s approved shipping states. But Asher said another retailer with Florida privileges is expected to come online soon.
Asher, who started the company with Paul Twyford, is also hopeful that Florida will pass legislation that will allow distillers to sell packaged cocktails through their onsite retail window. During the pandemic, rules were eased to allow bars and restaurants to sell drinks to go and, said Asher, “Tallahassee took notice that the world didn’t end.”
When the pandemic forced the shutdown of the brewery and taproom operations, the distillery shifted to producing hand sanitizer – that stuff is mostly alcohol, after all. That was, of course, less profitable, and the hand sanitizer business went soft last August when it became clear that masks were more effective in preventing the spread of the virus.
When I first visited Winter Park Distilling Company it was working out of a small warehouse space with a roll-up garage door opening to an alleyway next to the railroad tracks on Solana Avenue. Using a handmade five-gallon still, Twyford, Asher and Asher’s wife, Francesca, did most of the production themselves, including bottling whiskey and pasting labels on the bottles. It was the first licensed craft distillery in Orange County.
And as for a company with Winter Park in its name being in Orlando, Asher said that they plan to once again have a footprint in Winter Park, someday.