PEORIA — J.K. Williams Distilling will reopen in 2020 with a new owner who plans to relocate the East Peoria business to Peoria's Warehouse District.
Andy Faris, a Minneapolis native, purchased J.K. Williams last April, a transaction that included the naming rights, all of the distilling equipment and the existing inventory of spirits.
Faris holds a month-to-month lease on the present location at 526 High Point Lane, East Peoria, but plans to move to the Warehouse District when a location is secured. The new location will require a "complete build out, which means a fresh, unique atmosphere that pays homage to Peoria's rich whiskey history," according to a news release. Faris said Tuesday that the most promising location is within a block or two of Dozer Park.
If negotiations go as planned, the new location will open for business by mid-2020.
"While the core focus will be on bourbon, rye and single malt whiskey, the fruit-flavored corn whiskeys will be replaced with gin and vodka," Faris said in prepared remarks. "Since J.K. Williams Distilling will only be serving what it produces, the addition of gin and vodka will allow for a more diverse experience in the tasting room and unique and delicious hand-crafted cocktails."
The new distillery will be open five days a week and will feature tours and special events. Within two years, the plans call for expanding to 15 to 20 employees.
"Peoria is on the cusp of growth that will not only keep people from leaving but bring new people, like me, here as well," Faris said. "My vision is to create an upscale yet approachable experience that feels like it's been here forever. Our distillery will ultimately add to the already energetic and cool vibe happening in the Warehouse District."
Faris, who has nurtured an interest in the distilling business for years, learned of the sale of the Williams distilling operation at a merger-and-acquisitions conference last year in Minnesota. He visited the area with his fiancee and they both liked what they saw.
"Actually, we fell in love with the place," said Faris.
Open, affable and enthusiastic, Faris unflinchingly addressed his role in the impossible-to-ignore bankruptcy of a prominent event he managed almost 10 years ago — the Taste of Minnesota. News reports about the bankruptcy top the list of results supplied when his name is entered in a Google Internet search.
"I don't mind talking about it," he said Tuesday.
Faris said a confluence of bad luck, bad weather and more led to the downfall of the event that he left $1 million in debt.
"It was a horrible confluence of events," he said. "It was something we poured our heart and soul into and it backfired on us."
He said he has led several successful business ventures in the years since the bankruptcy.
J.K. Williams opened to the public in October 2013 under ownership of brothers Jesse and Jon Williams and their wives, Kassi and Kristin. It was named after the Williams brothers' great-great-grandfather, who made bootleg whiskey during Prohibition, according to family lore.
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.