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'Farm to cocktail glass': Mississippi River Distilling Company Downtown Lounge opens in Davenport

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The Mississippi River Distilling Company's new downtown Davenport location has gone through a soft opening and will have its grand opening this weekend.

Fans of local spirits no longer have to drive to LeClaire for their Mississippi River Distilling Company cocktails — the new downtown Davenport location has opened for business. 

The Mississippi River Distilling Company Downtown Lounge, 318 E. 2nd St., Davenport, held its soft opening last weekend and will have its grand opening at 4 p.m. June 24. The distillery is open 4-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 4-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and noon-8 p.m. Sundays. 

Owner Ryan Burchett said renovation of the space was right on schedule, though businesses always hope to open just a little bit faster than planned. 

"We're really pleased to be able to have things open for the busy summer months and to jump into all the great things that are going to be happening downtown," Burchett said. 

With a menu full of LeClaire favorites and drinks unique to Davenport and decor that hark back to the building's origins, the Downtown Lounge is offering a whole new vibe, Burchett said. 

Painted on a wall of the new space is a mural of the original building, emblazoned with "Davenport Buick Co." The original Italian marble floors have been restored, covered here and there by mid-century modern furniture. Bottles of Cody Road whiskeys and other Mississippi River Distilling Company spirits line the walls behind the bar and host desk. 

The downtown Davenport location also houses a bottling facility that Burchett said will soon be operational. Once the last of the machinery makes its way from Florida and is installed, which they expect to be finished in early July, staff won't have to bottle the spirits by hand, greatly increasing the product they can put out. 

"The speed at which we'll be able to manage stuff through it is wait-and-see," Burchett said. "But we know that it's going to ramp up our scale exponentially, certainly." 

A 100-gallon still sits along the back wall, offering customers a glimpse into how the distillery's products are made. While it can't run during the lounge's operating hours — the space gets uncomfortably warm if it's on — Burchett said they plan to use the still for smaller batches of spirits. 

Downtown Lounge manager Benjamin Ward said he's excited to show people that this new business was more than just a bar. Some of the drinks on the lounge's menu are also sold in bottles to take home, and offering them gives Ward the opportunity to explain all the work and creativity that goes on behind the scenes. 

"I think that's really what we're looking forward to, is showing the community that we're making this from farm to cocktail glass," Ward said. 

Across the street from the Downtown Lounge sits Raccoon Motel, Ragged Records and Trashcan Annie, which opened at these spots in 2021. Just a few blocks away, Daiquiri Factory's new Davenport location has been in operation for around one month. 

Downtown Davenport Partnership Executive Director Kyle Carter said the Downtown Lounge was a perfect fit for the area, which has seen a lot of investment since the 2019 floods. With streetscape improvements being completed and new development plans for the corner of East 2nd and Iowa streets, the distillery opening is just adding to the downtown's growth. 

"[Mississippi River Distilling Company] is kind of our newest cherry on the sundae, but when you're looking at the bigger picture of that corridor … I think we're starting to see some more momentum there," Carter said. 

The Mississippi River Distilling Company received a $16,500 interior improvement grant from the Downtown Davenport Partnership to help with renovation costs and worked with the city of Davenport through its small business loan program. 

Burchett has always held the conviction that "rising waters float all the boats," he said, and the business the new distillery location will bring downtown will help more than just them. 

"We really feel like what we're doing accentuates what's happening over here," Burchett said. "This is not competition; this is us all working together to make this neck of the woods kind of come back to life." 

Autumn Fjeld, Miss Wild Rose, 23, of Burlington, Iowa, plays the Orange Blossom Special during the Miss Iowa competition being held this weekend at the Adler Theatre.

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