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For a spirited celebration, check out the Mississippi River Distilling Company's new event center in LeClaire
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For a spirited celebration, check out the Mississippi River Distilling Company's new event center in LeClaire

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Quad-Cities couples, families and event-planners now have a new option for event space in LeClaire.

The Mississippi River Distilling Company opened a “Celebration Center” expansion this summer, revamping a long-vacant former butcher shop building next door into a space designed for wedding receptions, family gatherings  or other big meetings.

The 9,000-square-foot space includes a ground-floor banquet room designed for receptions that can hold up to 150 people, a rooftop patio with 100-person capacity that overlooks the Mississippi, a basement board room with a conference table built from the building’s original floorboards and an upstairs bridal room.

“We have found there is great demand for a space like this,” Event Manager Leah Cafarelli said. “There is a big backlog of weddings and other events that people put on pause in 2020.”

This summer, Quad-Cities wedding vendors are the busiest they’ve ever been. According to a national survey by the Knot, about half of couples who’d planned 2020 weddings said they would postpone them to 2021.

Like the boardroom, the distillery kept several elements from the butcher shop. Steel beams in the banquet room were covered with wood panels from the old floorboards, and exposed brick from the original building surrounds the bar.

Built in 1845, the building’s original purpose of a butcher shop didn’t last. It sat vacant and became a roost for birds along the river, earning it the nickname “pigeon hotel,” Cafarelli said.

Then, in 2018, Dana Development bought the property and wrapped new construction around the old building, creating a new place for storefronts or other rentals.

Dana Development sold the newly built space to next-door Mississippi River Distilling Company in March, during the pandemic. The distillery remodeled the building shell, putting in flooring and walls designed for an event space.

“You’ve got the bones of this old historic piece and all the new construction around it breathes new life into it,” co-owner Ryan Burchett said.

The celebration center has hosted six events since opening the last weekend of July. The distillery held its first wedding reception last weekend and hosted an Iowa-based musician for Friday Night Live in LeClaire. The company also sold spots to watch the fireworks show over the Mississippi River on Friday during Tugfest.

“We really feel like there’s nothing quite like it in the Quad-Cities,” Burchett said.

“This is something that can draw people downtown to stay the weekend,” Burchett added. “People are spending time in bars and restaurants and (this) lets people from all over the place see LeClaire for what it is,”

When COVID-19 shuttered event spaces, restaurants and other parts of the service industry, the distillery put plans for expansion on hold.

In February 2020, Mississippi River Distilling Company owners planned to start construction on the north side of their 303 Cody Road location, building a two-story expansion slated to be called the Speakeasy.

Once it became clear COVID-19 would unravel any plans in the service industry, the Burchetts began talking with the owner of the recently redeveloped property next door, which allowed them to expand without constructing a new building.

“It’s really worked great,” Burchett said.

Mississippi River Distilling Company has been operating for 11 years in LeClaire, creating spirits with grains sourced from local farmers.

Cafarelli said the cost to rent the space included chairs, tables, set-up, take-down, and bartenders and a server. People interested can inquire about pricing options online.

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Bettendorf, East Moline, and Silvis Reporter

Sarah is Bettendorf, East Moline, and Silvis reporter for the Quad City Times covering local government and news in the those areas. She graduated from the University of Iowa this spring and was the editor of the student-run newspaper The Daily Iowan.

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