“We’re three normal people trying to quit our day jobs,” says Nate Karnitz of Lawless Distilling Company in Minneapolis. The start-up distillery is self-funded by three friends: Nate and his wife Kirsten Karnitz, and longtime friend Chris Kulzer. “I definitely think it’s hard to start without having a ton of industry experience and a ton of money,” Kirsten adds.
But something that helps with experience and cash flow is on the horizon for Lawless—a cocktail room. Their Tippling House Vodka and Greenway Gin, available in retail stores since summer 2015, will form the basis of an approachable drink menu in a relaxed atmosphere. “Our branding is way different than everybody else. Others are higher-class places, ours is come to the nice dive bar kind of thing,” explains Kulzer. Instead of that high-end downtown feel, Lawless wants a place that’s more blue collar and accessible, which is fitting considering that Kulzer met the Karnitz’s at the Uptown VFW nine years ago.
The Lawless brand is a historical nod to their industrial home in Minneapolis’ Seward neighborhood, once dubbed “The Hub of Hell” due to the crime and bootlegging that took place there. It’s changed into a diverse neighborhood today, and with their distillery and upcoming cocktail room located on the edge of the area’s industrial park, Lawless is a neat segue between industrial revitalization and neighborhood amenity.
The windowless building speaks to the familiar Prohibition/speakeasy theme common among local cocktail rooms, but Lawless is going for a different atmosphere—with leather booths, old bowling alley chairs and bar stools, and a weathered, classic look.
“It was vacant for a long time,” Nate says of the fixer-upper building, “but we were zoned properly.” They’re located a block from The Ivy Building and with Hexagon Bar, Memory Lanes, and the businesses of Franklin Avenue to the north and ample housing in between. They feel a cocktail room is perfectly situated to become a regular happy hour stop for area workers and as a gathering place for those who live within walking distance looking for entertainment.
They’re also pleased to be located along the Greenway, as the owners are avid cyclists. And with Du Nord Craft Spirits within one mile, they foresee their end of town turning into a cocktail destination.
Lawless is about embracing history and community, using the cocktail room to make connections with their neighbors and customers. They plan to open the doors of the cocktail room on June 23, 2016, and while the drink menu has not been made public yet, Kirsten is excited about the cocktails that will be offered. “There’s a cocktail for everybody.”
Photos by Aaron Davidson, The Growler Magazine
Distiller: Nate Karnitz
Spirits: Tippling House Vodka, Greenway Gin
Visit: 2619 28th Avenue S, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hours: Wed–Thu from 4pm–10pm; Friday from 4pm–12am; Saturday from 12pm–12am