Du Nord Craft Spirits, located in Minneapolis and owned by former American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) president Chris Montana, was damaged in the early hours of Friday, May 29, as protests responding to police brutality against black Americans and the killing of George Floyd swept the city. According to the ACSA, several fires were set inside the distillery’s warehouse, triggering Du Nord’s fire suppression system which dumped “more than 26,000 gallons inside the facility over the course of four and a half hours.”
The ACSA has since started a GoFundMe page to assist Du Nord’s recovery, with nearly $50,000 raised at the time of publication, just short of the $60,000 goal. Montana has similarly started a crowdfunding campaign, with his initial goal of $40,000 eclipsed in less than 24 hours.
Update 6/5/20: By week’s end, the crowdfunding total from both campaigns has reached a combined $447,205, with the Montanas’ GoFundMe alone amassing more than $358,000. As a result, Du Nord has committed to dispersing the funds among neighboring minority-owned businesses. “Thanks to the support we have received and an impending insurance claim, we feel funds would be better directed to our sister businesses in distress. Therefore, Du Nord is establishing this fund to support black and brown companies affected by the riots,” their page reads.
A Black-Owned Business in the Heart of the Protests
Speaking with CNN, Montana said that it is heartbreaking for him and members of his community to witness this destruction. “To understand where Du Nord is, where our distillery is—we are on the same block as the Third Precinct. That’s the epicenter of these protests,” he said. “You can’t find a business in any direction that doesn’t have damage.” Portions of the distillery were salvaged, however, by employees who returned amid tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bang grenades to hang signs that marked Du Nord as a black-owned business. “The only spot that doesn’t have damage is one section of our business that had those signs up. So I have to believe that it mattered,” Montana said.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Montana thanked his employees for their efforts but warned others against risking their lives to protect the distillery. “It is not safe for anyone to defend a business, so neither we, nor our staff will do so. If Du Nord should be set on fire, no one should enter to try to put it out: there is highly flammable ethanol inside and it is not safe. Its [sic] only stuff, nothing inside is worth a life,” part of the statement reads.
Posting today, Du Nord announced that the distillery is now a pop-up donation center for toiletries and canned food. Donations will be accepted from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. today via curbside drop off.
Here at Whisky Advocate, we have had the pleasure of getting to know Montana through his role with the ACSA and wish him and Du Nord’s staff safety in the weeks to come. We had most recently spoken to him for a story about the struggles craft distillers are facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our spirits production has ground to a complete stop,” Montana said in May. “We don’t have a cocktail room anymore, which was a significant source of income. We had to lay off around 60% of staff. We’ve switched over to hand sanitizer production, and that’s taken up all of our bandwidth. We’re going to work off of the inventory that we have, but when that runs out, we’ll have to make some tough decisions.”