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Watershed Distillery Opens Kitchen and Bar

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Watershed Distillery Opens Kitchen and Bar
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When Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo started Watershed Distillery nine years ago, they never considered opening a bar restaurant. Bars were scary. Restaurants were scary, Lehman said.

“Fast forward to today and we’re ribbon-cutting our own bar restaurant,” he said at their event on Monday night. “But a lot has changed.”

Admitting that he and Rigo weren’t experts in the industry, they gathered a team of individuals who could help them along. Chef Jack Morris and cocktail creator Alex Chien assembled the tastes of Watershed’s newest form. Some of the treats of the night were pork belly and pinto beans, potatoes, meatballs, and a meat and cheese sampler. The rest of the menu, for now, is a twist on midwestern winter comfort food. As the seasons change, Lehman said the menu will as well, getting lighter in the spring and summer.

As for the cocktails, they offer an array of flavors using their bourbon barrel gin, four peel gin, vodka and bourbon. What’s seen on the menu will be reinvented as they go, so it doesn’t get stale, Lehman said.

In what used to be an empty warehouse, Watershed’s restaurant and bar now occupies a spacious area peering in at the tanks and stills that sit behind a wall of windows. Following a tour of the distillery, rather than leaving after a quarter ounce sample of their product, guests can sit down, grab a cocktail, a snack, or a full-blown dinner. It adds context to the product. Now, when leaving with a $40 bottle of bourbon barrel gin, people can see how it translates into a cocktail and how it pairs with food.

“There’s great local restaurants that are pouring our stuff and doing great things with it, but what better way to share it than right here ourselves?” he said.

Getting to that point was a process in itself and involved working with Ohio legislators. State Representative Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek), in attendance at the ribbon-cutting, co-sponsored House Bill 351, allowing distilleries to function like a brewpub. Lehman, Rigo, and a guild of their peers worked with Perales to get this legislation through, increasing their manufacturing limit from 10,000 to 100,000 gallons, and allowing them to serve distilled liquor, other alcoholic beverages, and food on location.

“It was a good day when we got this sucker passed wasn’t it?” Perales said. “There may be more. This industry is primed for doing a lot more.”

With four more years in office, Perales suggested that Lehman and Rigo get started on further legislation, hinting at the possibility of having an Ohio bourbon trail. For now, though, they’re probably more focused on getting their new bar restaurant up and running.

Watershed Kitchen and Bar opens today, Tuesday, January 24 at 1145 Chesapeake Ave., Suite D. Their hours are 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

For more information, visit http://watersheddistillery.com/home.html.

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