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The owner of Toro Tapas Bar and Faherty’s is selling both Elmwood Avenue hot spots to open a distillery downtown. Nick Kotrides, with partner Eric Heuser, will open Niagara Distilling Co. at 459 Ellicott St. this winter.

“This is a career change for me,” Kotrides said. “It’s a dream I’ve had for a long time.”

The craft distillery will produce gluten-free spirits from scratch, using ingredients from local farmers that are non-GMO – natural grains that have not been genetically modified.

“We’re a scratch distiller from grain to bottle,” Kotrides said. “We bring the grain in from the farmers, mash it, distill it and package it.”

With its 500-gallon still capacity, Niagara could produce 2,400 bottles of spirits per week but will likely ramp up to that volume over time.

“We hope to jump off from our local business to promote throughout the state and eventually to multiple states,” Kotrides said.

Niagara Distilling Co. will produce gin under the name 1812, vodka under the name Scarecrow and whiskey – including moonshine, bourbon and rye – under the name Cobblestone. Whiskey takes a minimum of three years to make, so it will not be available for at least that long.

The distillery will have an enclosed glass tasting room and retail store, and will offer on-site tours. Kotrides and Heuser hope to be open by Christmas.

Craft distilleries are gaining in popularity, much like craft breweries and boutique wineries have done. Changes to New York State laws have made distilling less expensive in recent years, leading to an uptick in spirit makers.

Small-batch producer Buffalo Distilling Co. opened in Wyoming County in 2012. In November, Lockhouse Distillery opened at 255 Great Arrow Ave.

Kotrides bought Faherty’s in 1989 and opened Toro in 2002. He sold Empire Grill on Hertel Avenue in April and has fielded inquiries for both Elmwood Avenue properties.

Robert E. Eloff, an off-duty police officer charged with assaulting Air National Guardsman William C. Sager Jr. at a different bar, once worked security at Toro and Faherty’s and has been accused of using unjustified force in incidents there and elsewhere.

email: schristmann@buffnews.com