OCEAN CITY – Ocean City’s largest bar, restaurant and nightclub is getting even bigger with high hopes of growing its most recent business venture: distilling.
Ground was broken Monday on 49th Street, just steps from the main entrance of Seacrets, on a new three-story, 12,000-square-foot distillery that will house the creation of Seacrets’ new line of craft spirits.
“We can’t keep it on the shelves,” said Seacrets owner and founder Leighton Moore. “We’ve been making it in Rehoboth at Delaware Distilling Company since last May and they can’t make it any faster. That’s why we are making a larger facility than they have by far so we can keep up with our larger demands and our future needs.”
Moore and his team were greenlighted to move forward with the project after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill last May that had been previously introduced by Delegate Mary Beth Carozza in the House and State Senator Jim Mathias in Annapolis.
The house and senate bills breezed through unanimously and, upon the governor’s signature, permits Seacrets to produce liquor on its own property and sell it.
“It’s the beginning of something that is going to be really good for the community and for the future employees here, and for economic development here in Worcester County, said Moore.
Carozza and Mathias were both on hand for the ceremony and each took a verbal victory lap of sorts on their role in helping to push through the bill.
“I’m a new delegate and I only introduced two new bills last year, and this was one of them,” said Carozza. “When I heard that Leighton Moore and Seacrets were going out of state to Delaware to do their production, I said, ‘that’s not acceptable, we need to be doing that right here in Ocean City at Seacrets.’”
Mathias praised Moore’s willingness to continue to grow his business here in the resort where he began his empire.
“I was here when you opened the doors at the 40-seat tiki bar,” said Mathias, “and I applaud how you continue to have the confidence to invest and re-invest in Ocean City. That’s vision and that’s growth. Seacrets has become a city inside a city.”
Moore said the bill is almost identical to a similar bill that paved the way for the explosion of the craft beer industry here on the shore, and he said, without the precedent of that bill, and the political work done by the aforementioned elected officials to push it through, erecting the new Seacrets Distillery building by the projected date of spring of 2016 would have never happened.
“A year ago, no one thought this would be possible”, said Moore, “but this building isn’t just about Seacrets anymore. It’s hopefully going to help us get this brand of spirits to people all over the country. We want to piggyback off the success we’ve already had.”
The Seacrets Distillery will be permitted to produce 100,000 gallons of spirits annually, but Moore is already thinking about the next phase of the business.
“The building itself looks large, but it’s not as large as it can and hopefully will be,” said Moore. “It has expandability written all over it. Hopefully, someday the production will far exceed the limit that I have been granted, honestly, I don’t think it will be too long after this building opens that I’ll have to go back and ask for more than I’ve been allowed.”
Aesthetically, brick and exposed steel will make up the exterior of the building but the face of the building will be mostly glass, in order for the people passing by on their way into Seacrets will be able to see the liquor production in real time.
Additionally, distilling operations will take place on the first floor, and will include a second floor mezzanine for tasting rooms and gift shop, and a third floor area that will be climate controlled for grain storage. Daily tours for the public are planned for the distillery.
“The building will cost about 80 percent more than the square footage would normally dictate because of the safety measures we have to build in because of the public tours,” said Moore, “but the bottom line is that we want this distillery to be its own entity, and even though this is vertical integration, (the distillery) is going to be a major player on the Seacrets campus.”