Best New Use of an Old Warehouse

New Columbia Distillers
This has been a good year for the District’s vanishing industrial zones. Medical marijuana has inched forward, putting several warehouses to use as cultivation centers. Other buildings have become breweries. And a biodiesel entrepreneur recently announced plans to recycle cooking oil off New York Avenue NE. But marijuana, microbrews, and recycled french fry grease are all Portlandia cliches. For sheer uniqueness, check out what’s coming to an old wine storage building on Fenwick Street NE: gin and whiskey. If John Uselton and his father-in-law, Michael Lowe, can pull it off, they’ll soon be the proud proprietors of the first distillery to operate in the District for 100 years.

Uselton, a former beer buyer for Schneider’s on Capitol Hill, had wanted to start a brewery. But Chocolate City and D.C. Brau beat him to the punch. So he decided to go in a different direction and take advantage of the city’s new, retro enthusiasm for craft cocktails. After taking a class in Washington state, Uselton and Lowe pinned down their site, got a 450-liter still, and started talking to the neighbors about their plan to produce 2,000 cases of gin a year. Unlike the prospective pot producers, they’ve received little resistance, and hope to start selling hooch this summer. (For the aged whiskey, you’ll have to wait.)

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