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Committee high on Evanston distillery’s performance

Members of the city's Economic Development Committee are high on the prospect of FEW Spirits expanding its distillery, backing a 10-year loan, not to exceed $250,000 for the business. The issue next goes to the Evanston City Council for approval.  | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media

Members of the city's Economic Development Committee are high on the prospect of FEW Spirits expanding its distillery, backing a 10-year loan, not to exceed $250,000 for the business. The issue next goes to the Evanston City Council for approval. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media

EVANSTON — A city committee enthusiastically backed an agreement with FEW Spirits on a 10-year-loan for as much as $250,000 for equipment and materials, reveling in the local distillery’s growing reputation.

Members of the city’s Economic Development Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to support citys staff’s recommendation of the loan to FEW.

FEW, a craft distillery at 918 Chicago Avenue, was opened in 2010 by local resident Paul Hletko. It specializes in the production of whiskey, bourbon, rye and gin products.

The committee spent the bulk of their review, eliciting from Hletko some of FEW’s considerable achievements in a short span and even offering their own testimony.

EDC member Seth Freeman told Hletko that FEW’s whiskey was served in his household last holiday season “and all our guests said it was remarkable.”

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th, urged Hletko to fill the committee in about the response FEW products received, including the news that the distillery whiskey was served in six of the top 20 bars in the world as named in a survey.

“We’re working on more of the bars,” Hletko said.

Tours of craft-distilleries are an increasing tourist activity,” said Johanna Nyden, the city’s Economic Development Manager and Cindy Plante, a fellow with the International City Manager’s Association, in a memo to the committee.

Currently, FEW experiences a total weekly visitor count between 60 to 90 people per week to its distillery, they noted.

“The tasting room, an accessory use to the distillery at 918 Chicago Ave., has attracted visitors to Evanston from across the world,” they said.

The visitors not only tour the distillery, but “spend money shopping, going out to dinner at restaurants,” buying gas, added Hletko.

With help from the loan, the company is looking to increase its marketing, hiring additional marketing and production employees, staff said.

The business also has plans to acquire new equipment to meet its growing production demands, staff noted.

The issue next goes to the full city council, for possible review and a vote.

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