Lawrence investors open multistate cocktail business; city to look at fire engine, ambulance issues for North Lawrence
As Roman candles land in the yard, as firecrackers blow up the trash can, and as the Chinese once again invade my neighborhood with their "lanterns" that double as flying blowtorches, I pine for an old-fashioned Fourth of July.
And now I know just the Lawrence company to help me have it: Arty's Legendary Cocktails. What? You weren't thinking of the Old Fashioned cocktail, which is a mixture of whiskey, bitters, club soda and some other flavor enhancers? I guess then you haven't spent enough time watching your party guests try to clean your gutters with an M-80.
A pair of Lawrence investors, though, have been thinking of the Old Fashioned cocktail quite a bit. Scott Still, a retired aerospace engineer, and Dean Reed, the former operator of Kaw Valley Home Sales, have joined with two Wisconsin investors to create Arty's, which produces pre-mixed legendary cocktails that you can buy at liquor stores.
The company technically is based in Appleton, Wis., because Old Fashioned cocktails are quite the thing up there. Still says they essentially are the state drink of Wisconsin, which explains why so many Wisconsin residents wear cheese on their heads. (Trivia question: Can you tell me how Lawrence and Appleton, Wis., are linked? The winner gets a package of Roman candles.)
But two of the four investors are from Lawrence, and Still — the company's vice-president of business development — has his office here. The company also has chosen Lawrence and Kansas for its first big expansion. The company recently signed a deal with Lawrence-based O'Malley Beverage to begin distributing Arty's products in Kansas liquor stores. The product started showing up on some Kansas shelves last week, and another dozen or so stores are expected to be added in the Lawrence and Kansas City area in the next week or so.
The company sells three versions of the Old Fashioned and also has a pre-mixed Moscow Mule. The company plans to soon release a pre-mixed Bloody Mary and some vodka lemonade concoctions. All the products come in 7-ounce, ready-to-drink bottles that are sold in four-packs for about $8.
Even if none of those offerings interest you, this may be a company to keep an eye on because Still thinks it could end up producing some jobs for Lawrence. The company now sells in Wisconsin, the Chicago metro area and Kansas. But it soon will be expanding into Indiana and Las Vegas, with other markets also under consideration.
Currently, the company has a contract with a microbrewer in Wisconsin, and Arty's mixes, bottles and ships the product out of a company-owned facility in Appleton. But as the company grows, Still said a more centralized production and distribution center is likely, and he said Lawrence will get strong consideration for such a facility.
"We think Lawrence would be a terrific area for the concept," Still said.
So, I'll keep an eye open for that.
Now, to our trivia question. Appleton, Wis., and Lawrence really should be sister cities. Both communities were founded with financial help from Amos Lawrence. Technically, Amos backed the creation of Appleton's Lawrence Institute, but the school is largely what fueled the creation of the town. Today, it is known as Lawrence University. We named our city after Amos, while Appleton named its after Amos' father-in-law, Samuel Appleton.
Another acceptable answer is that Appleton is the community that makes Lawrence's fire engines. Pierce Manufacturing, the large fire engine builder, is based in Appleton.
So, I'm feeling generous today. If you had either one of those answers, you can come pick up your packs of Roman candles at my house on July 5. They will be in the yard, on the roof, in the gutters, in the barbecue grill, in the . . .
In other news and notes from around town:
• In case you didn't already know, the city of Lawrence has a ban on almost all fireworks. (Put your handcuffs away. I don't live in the city limits.) I've been asked to list what fireworks you can shoot off in Lawrence. Here goes: Party poppers, snappers, snakes/glow worms, sparklers, toy caps and toy smoke devices. Pretty much everything else is illegal to shoot or sell in the city limits. All those fireworks stands you see are technically just outside the city limits.
it is obvious, though, that many people do shoot fireworks inside the city limits despite the ban. As we reported, the police chief has put together a report on the enforcement of the ban. City commissioners received the report at their meeting last night, but anyone hoping the city would come up with a better way of enforcing the ban was left with a dud.
Commissioners didn't even talk about the issue. They just received the written report and moved on. The report stated the ban is difficult to enforce, in part, because there are many other calls to respond to on July 4, and when the department does receive a fireworks complaint, it often is hard to determine who shot the fireworks after the fact.
I was curious to see whether commissioners pushed for a change in philosophy on enforcement, i.e., moving away from a complaint-based system and one where a certain number of officers are assigned to go out and look for fireworks violations. Think two officers and an unmarked vehicle. Drive through a neighborhood, and stop when you see people shooting fireworks. Confiscate what could be a few hundred dollars worth of fireworks. Give a ticket to those people who are uncooperative. A fire department vehicle could be parked a few blocks away to take the confiscated fireworks and properly dispose of them. Yes, it would take some extra staff, and, no, it wouldn't catch everyone. But it would catch more than what's being caught today, and word may begin to spread. But commissioners had no such discussion of that idea or any other.
Commissioners also didn't have any discussion about asking the county to consider tougher regulations in the future. No ban exists in the county, but the police department has noted that the large number of fireworks tents that exist right at the city limits may be sending the wrong message to Lawrence residents about the legality of fireworks in the city.
Based on Tuesday's lack of discussion, it looks like the status quo is the most likely path for the fireworks ban.
• One event that may get some changes in the future is the Tour of Lawrence bike race. The Sunday morning race that happened downtown caused some traffic disruptions around the fire station at Seventh and Vermont streets.
Ted Boyle, the president of the North Lawrence Improvement Association, took notice. He said the line of backed-up vehicles in the downtown area would have made it very difficult for a fire engine or ambulance to respond to North Lawrence.
He came to Tuesday's City Commission meeting to make sure city commissioners were aware of the problem. Boyle and other North Lawrence residents long have lamented that the city does not have a fire truck or ambulance based in North Lawrence.
At Tuesday's meeting, Mayor Mike Amyx instructed city staff to come up with a policy that would dictate when the fire department should place a first-responder vehicle in North Lawrence. It sounds like the general idea is that when certain roads in town are going to be closed — either for construction or events — the fire department would temporarily place either an ambulance, a fire engine or both in North Lawrence. The specific details of the policy are to be crafted in the next few weeks.
As for the bike race, city officials noted the route was different this year because of some downtown construction. Next year, the route is expected to shift back to its traditional course, which has not produced as much traffic disruption.