Immigrants take a gamble starting distillery in desert

on 09/02/11 at 10:22 am

Spirits

George Racz, founder of the Las Vegas Distillery

George Racz is in high spirits one recent afternoon as he stands inside a Henderson warehouse, surrounded by the fermenting tanks and brown barrels that soon will be distilling the fruits of his labors.

The Romanian-born family man is in the liquor business. Or, at least, he’s taking a shot at it.

After nearly two years of trudging through the regulatory maze of licensing a business run by rules from the Prohibition era, Racz’s venture, the Las Vegas Distillery, is finally about to open. If all goes well, the craft distillery will brew up vodka, gin, whiskey, bourbon, rum and brandy starting in February.

“Nobody else was so crazy,” Racz, 43, laughed. “We are not rich guys, but we didn’t give up.”

Racz remained persistent while he and his small family of three invested everything to open a business that Nevada and the valley had never seen.

Armed with a loan from Nevada State Bank, he’s spent $600,000 on materials — the copper pot stills imported from Germany, fermenters, the cooker, dozens of barrels, ingredients and money to lease the space.

The risks are huge. He’s not just starting a business in a terrible recession; he’s gambling that he can change state law to do business the way he feels he must to survive and flourish.

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