An artist’s rendering illustrates what the proposed Weiss Distilling Co., to be located on East 14 Mile Road, east of South Main Street, would look like.

An artist’s rendering illustrates what the proposed Weiss Distilling Co., to be located on East 14 Mile Road, east of South Main Street, would look like.

Rendering provided by Michael Smith

Clawson approves small distiller license for new business

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published May 14, 2018

CLAWSON — On May 1, the Clawson City Council voted 4-1 to approve a resolution to grant Weiss Distilling Co. a small distiller license for subsequent approval by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

Owner Dennis Weiss said he hopes to have the distillery and 35-seat tasting room up and running in six months. It will be located in the vacant space formerly occupied by 24G and Great Sport Coffee on East 14 Mile Road, east of South Main Street.

Weiss purchased the 24-34 E. 14 Mile Road strip of buildings and is already renting out some of it as office space. He intends to invest more than $1 million in renovations, equipment and decor, as well as create eight to nine jobs, according to backup materials in the meeting agenda information packet.

“Now it’s vacant and doesn’t look very nice,” Weiss said at the May 1 City Council meeting. “I want to make it look very nice and bring my own distillery there.”

He said that he plans to use the bottom space for a tasting room and to turn the vacant coffee shop into a production room. In front of that, he said, he plans to create two retail spots — one for the distillery and one available for lease.

“So that not-beautiful spot now will be two beautiful retail spots,” he said. “We met with a lot of local contractors, and I’d like to keep everything local.”

Weiss said he already hired a highly rated distiller from New York and plans to distill vodka, gin, bourbon and whiskey, and all of the bottles’ labels will include “Clawson, Michigan.”

According to backup materials, Weiss’ first business, AdWork Media, has “become one of the largest marketing companies in North America,” and his interest in spirits comes from a “storied history of family who distilled spirits in eastern Europe.”

Weiss has traveled the better part of a year visiting distilleries and speakeasies around the country to learn about the trade, according to the backup materials.

The storefront retail space will offer bottled spirits and related merchandise, including branded gear such as hats, T-shirts and more.

Retail hours would be scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Tasting room hours would be scheduled for 5 p.m. to midnight Thursdays through Sundays, with tours of the production space available on the weekends.

Weiss said the business will be a place to enjoy local cheese and charcuterie options and a pre- or post-dinner drink. Eventually, he intends to expand into distribution.

“Everyone knows that beer is very popular now,” he said. “Distilling is like the next thing, and I’m happy to say I already have a team in place.”

Mayor Deborah Wooley said that she was excited for the prospect of a distillery in Clawson and that the renderings were “beautiful.”

“Last time I was in Chicago, we went to a distillery,” Councilwoman Susan Moffitt said. “It was a really cool experience, so I was excited when I saw this. It’s really neat.”

Councilman Howie Airriess said that, even though he doesn’t drink liquor, he liked the concept of the distillery and thought it would be a welcome addition for Clawson.

“I don’t believe this is going to be like a bar,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Matt Ulbrich cast the single nay vote.

“I love to see empty space become occupied in Clawson, I really do. And that area has been kind of an eyesore downtown for a while,” he said. “I’m a little concerned Clawson is becoming a place known for auto parts and alcohol.”

Ulbrich said he had “a lot of reservations” about promoting alcohol consumption.

“Frankly, that’s a very unpopular opinion,” he said. “I’m in the vast minority here and I understand that.”

Weiss said he thought the distillery would complement other businesses in the area and that he had already spoken to some business owners about forging future partnerships, as far as carrying the distillery’s spirits.

He added that the venture fit into several uses desired by the community as outlined in Clawson’s master plan, such as artisan uses, entertainment, revitalization and interesting public space.