Changes pave way for Joliet micro-distillery

Brock A. Stein | 4/6/2017, midnight
The new owners of the former Diocese of Joliet "castle" building on Bridge Street plan to open Bridgeport Winery next ...
The castle-like former Diocese HQ will become Bridgeport Winery in Joliet. Photo by Brock A. Stein

Joliet moved a step closer to having its first distiller of spirits and wine open in the city after the city council approved a change in its liquor control ordinance and variation of use this week.

Council members approved an amendment to its liquor regulations that will allow Bridgeport Winery, a craft distillery, to operate at a former Diocese of Joliet-owned property at 310 Bridge St.

City Manager Jim Hock said that the recent changes made to allow for a craft brewery to operate in the city didn’t address distillers of wine and other liquors.

Council members also approved a petition to allow a variation of use for the distillery to operate a business in an area zoned for multi-family residential.

A city memo indicates that the site was used as an office space by the Diocese of Joliet for 50 years before relocating to Crest Hill. Property owner Sehring Property Holding LLC plans to rehabilitate the building and surrounding site with the aim of using it as a special events space with wine and whiskey tasting rooms. The first floor of the site will include 3 tasting rooms, a bar and kitchen with 3 private event spaces, an office, and bedroom on the second floor. A processing building on the site will be used for producing wine and other liquor. Grapes for wine production will be grown on site as well.


A tunnel that lead to the old brewery at the site will be excavated and rehabbed to serve as the operation's wine and spirits distillery.

“I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from people in the neighborhood,” said Mayor Bob O’Dekirk of the new business.

“They’re really happy that something upscale is coming in to their neighborhood.”

Council member Jan Quillman said that the business owners “did it right” by presenting their plan to neighbors and neighborhood organizations before seeking city approval.

Converting the property to use as a winery will return it to something akin to its original use. In the late 1860s until about 1910 the site was the home of the Sehring Brewing Company. Owner Frederick Sehring lived in the castle-like home at 310 Bridge. Developer Phil Soto said that the foundation of the old brew works operation will serve as the site of the new wine and spirit production facility which he said could produce up to 5,000 cases each year. Soto said that the project was still in the architectural phase of planning and would be open sometime next year. brock@thetimesweekly.com