Tacoma's Foss Waterway could be home to new distillery, restaurant

South Sound residents could soon enjoy a new distillery and restaurant on Tacoma’s tide flats.

According to Ricardo Noguera, Tacoma’s community and economic development director, Riverhorse LLC, the parent company of Copper and Kings Distillery, is in the final stages of selecting a site for a distillery that would distribute its product nationwide. The company is considering one site each in Oregon, Virginia, and Washington — its Washington location being 301 East 11th Street in Tacoma, on the east side of Thea Foss Waterway and just north of the Murray Morgan Bridge.

According to Noguera, who outlined the plan in a Dec. 11 memo to city manager T. C. Broadnax, Riverhorse would spend approximately $3.65 million to acquire the 1.2-acre parcel, install infrastructure, construct a 25,000-square-foot building, and purchase machinery and equipment for the distillery operation. The company also plans to spend an additional $1 million in infrastructure, tenant improvements, and furniture and fixtures to accommodate a 100-seat restaurant and a 100-seat banquet area. The restaurant will be accessible by pedestrians, motorists, and even boaters, with a dock constructed to access Thea Foss Waterway. The company plans to employ as many as 52 people within the first five years of operation.

The city is requesting a $150,000 grant from the Washington State Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) to help pay for the project’s infrastructure improvements.

“Off-site infrastructure costs total $300,000 and are necessary to address major deficiencies in street, sidewalk, and utility conditions,” wrote Noguera in the Dec. 11 memo. “The city can improve its competitive position in Riverhorse’s site selection process if it can secure a $150,000 infrastructure grant from CERB, which is the maximum amount the city can obtain. CERB would prefer to make a low interest loan, rather than a grant, to the city. However, the city currently lacks the bond capacity and revenue streams to repay such a loan.”

Although a grant application was submitted to CERB before the Dec. 3 deadline, Tacoma City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution Tuesday authorizing the application, a requirement of CERB. A decision on the grant could be reached as early as Jan. 17.