Despite a financial snag, Tumwater’s quest to open a craft brewing and distillery center — and revitalize its brewery district — is moving forward.

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Despite a financial snag, Tumwater’s quest to open a craft brewing and distillery center — and revitalize its brewery district — is moving forward.

Recent progress includes hosting a spirit-tasting event, finishing an environmental-impact report and negotiating a possible donation of the historic old brewhouse to the city.

The grand vision is to build an economic hub that capitalizes on a blossoming industry in Washington, which is second to California for the number of craft brewers.

In the meantime, the city is trying to create incentives for development in the long-dormant brewery district where the world-famous Olympia Beer was once produced.

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One incentive is a planned action ordinance that identifies all the regulations for the brewery properties and basically clarifies what a developer can and cannot do.

The ordinance will go before the Tumwater City Council for approval. City Administrator John Doan said the ordinance will offer predictability and save time for any developer who pursues a project at the site.

This year, Tumwater sought $3 million from the state capital budget to buy about 3.5 acres to develop into a craft brewing and distillery center.

However, lawmakers did not include the request in their capital budget.

Doan said the money would have provided a “jump start” for the proposal, but it’s not a major setback.

“Does it slow us down? Yes,” he said. “It also affords us some time to figure out how to make it a better project.”

Another facet of Tumwater’s long-term plan is to cultivate the city’s reputation as a destination for craft brewing and distilling.

With that in mind, the city persuaded the Washington Distillers Guild to let it host the annual South Sound Spirits Gathering, which was Saturday at the Olympia Flight Museum.

At least 18 craft distillers signed up to pour samples at Saturday’s event, including Tenino-based Sandstone Distilleries.

Sandstone co-owner John Bourden, who has won awards for his whiskey and vodka, said part of the appeal of Tumwater’s proposal for a brewing and distillery center is the educational component.

Partners in the center, such as South Puget Sound Community College, will implement industry-specific research and training opportunities.

“There’s going to be a real need in the not-too-far future for skilled people in such a growing industry,” said Bourden, who opened his business in 2014. “It would be a real attraction.”

Lesa Givens of Blind Pig Spirits in Olympia likes the idea of the area becoming “the Leavenworth” of brewing and distilling. She was referring to the Chelan County city that has established a thriving tourism niche by modeling itself after a Bavarian village.

“If it’s something that will bring people from out of the area to Olympia, I don’t see how that can hurt anybody,” she said.

“If you are a destination for something, that has to be good for the community.”

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