Wheat State Distilling opens; can't sell liquor until goverment is back in business

WICHITA — The government shutdown is now affecting drinking in Wichita, at least when it comes to the new Wheat State Distilling.

"We're supposed to be firing up the boilers tomorrow morning," says David Bahre, who is opening the business with his wife, Kim.

Though production should start Friday – Wheat State will produce a variety of gin, vodka, whiskey and rum, though not all at once – the Bahres can't sell their products until the government approves their label.

"So we can't sell a drop until the government reopens," David Bahre says. "If you can believe it. We're that close."

The bureau that approves the labels also has a 30-day backlog, he says.

"I don't know when the government will reopen, but whenever they do, it will set us back however many days they were shut down" plus the backlog, Bahre says.

The Bahres, who are from Wichita, live in Wamego.

Wheat State is in 3,200 square feet at the southwest corner of 37th and Hydraulic.

David Bahre has a degree in milling science, which is the process of turning grains into products, from Kansas State University. He says he's been a business owner since he was 19. He has bought and sold a number of restaurants and has other business interests as well.

Bahre thought finding a distributor might be a challenge.

"We thought that was going to be one of the hardest parts," he says.

When Have You Heard? reported the business was opening, though, the calls started coming.

"Some of them even called my mother looking for us," Bahre says. "All of the largest ones in the state are interested in us."

He says he hasn't made a deal with one yet, but he's already "had a hell of a run."

Now that the business is starting, Bahre says he welcomes visitors for tours. He's not ready for the official kickoff just yet, though.

"There's just no point in having a grand opening until ... we have something to sell."