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Contamination concerns delay Polson distillery project

by Lake County Leader
| May 12, 2022 12:15 AM

A surprise discovery below a demolished building in downtown Polson will delay the opening of a planned distillery for several months.

In March workers tore down the building at the corner of First Street East and Highway 93, the future site of Swimming Horse Distillery.

The ownership group includes Stephen Turner, owner and operator of Brothers Construction in Polson; Pat and Michele McCarthy of Butte; and Mike Bouchee of Missoula, an attorney and vice president of Rocky Mountain Development Group in Missoula. Bouchee is a University of Montana graduate and a member of the Grizzlies’ 1995 national championship football team.

The demolished building across from Beacon Tire used to be home to the county’s Alcohol Compliance Monitoring office. The site also was home to a gas station many years before that.

Pat McCarthy said crews discovered two previously unknown fuel storage tanks, which will force a delay in development. Removal of the tanks will require additional permitting.

“To ensure that the (underground storage tanks) are extracted in accordance with all local and state regulations, and that worker safety and the local environment is protected during the removal process, environmental samples must be collected and analyzed prior to moving forward,” McCarthy said.

The developers are partnering with the state Department of Environmental Quality to conduct the sampling.

The owners said Swimming Horse Distillery will produce gin, vodka and bourbon, though bourbon won’t be available right away due to a longer production process.

Initial plans were to have the building done and be up and running by mid-summer. McCarthy said they’re now planning on opening by late fall or early winter.

In February, Turner said the new building will be one story with a high-ceiling distilling area in the back and a tasting room up front.