In Durham, the Liberty & Plenty Distillery by pod a + d

Downtown Durham, in its never-ending quest to be the next Brooklyn, now has a new distillery.

It’s called Liberty & Plenty. It specializes in vodka and gin, with an eye toward experimenting with its own whiskies.

Its tasting room was designed by a pair of designers at pod architecture + design. They’ve got experience at this sort of thing, with the design of Rabbit Hole Distillery in Louisville back in 2018.

Here, they were challenged by owner Tina Williford to squeeze that tasting room into 2,800 square feet of existing space..

Williford’s no neophyte. She’s holds an MS in Brewing and Distilling from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, and is a diploma-level graduate of the Wine & Spirits Educational Trust.

Here, the big idea was to engage people on the street, get them into a seat at the bar, serve them a drink and show them what’s happening behind glass in the distillery. The architects treated the bar as an aperture, so patrons can see all the equipment behind it.

The problem was the bar could take up only 10 percent of the interior. “The distillery took up all the space and we wanted to open it up and have a presence on the street,” says Youn Choi, a partner at pod. “So how do you make it feel like a distillery and a hospitality space at the same time?”

It had been distillery in the past, but one that never got off ground. Williford updated it with stills and fermentation tanks, while the architects worked on the layout and got approval through regulatory agencies.

It was no walk in the park.

“It’s a tight space and we had to think carefully about how to utilize it,” Choi says. “There are stools, a counter and a bar, and at the backside you see the manufacturing.

The bar brings the experience down to human scale. “You’re bellying up whether you want to or not,” Pierson says. “The bar is the scale – you lean on it or sit at it, but that changes at the back, at the threshold of human and mechanical scale.”

By the time patrons get up to the bar they’ll have walked up a ramp from an old loading dock, now extended it to an outdoor seating area. “It spills out for public space,” he says.

The material palette is fairly basic: concrete, glass, steel, and wooden rafters. “They’re old growth, and larger sized members,” he says. “It’s an old building with an industrial, gritty look inside, but it’s got a refined bar space.”

The architects glu-lammed birch plywood together for the bar, to offset the rustic feel. “We didn’t want that old wood look – we wanted to make it brighter because the space is uninviting,” Choi says. “We did a contrast to be more modern, with lighter wood to make it more inviting.”

The neighborhood, in and around the 600 block of Foster Street, is in transition. Up the hill is a food court. Boxcar Bar and Arcade is next door, along with Urban Axes for those inclined to throw an axe or two. A perennial favorite, Kings Sandwich Shop, is on the corner.

And its location offers its own bit of sporting history. “Actually, it’s in right field of the old Durham Bulls baseball stadium,” Pierson says. “If you hit a home run, you’d hit our building.”

So, if you’re looking for Crash Davis or Nuke LaLoosh, chances are you might spot them here.

For more, go here.