Rich Frank and Julie Smalstig wondered what would be built across the road from Otto’s Pub and Brewery as they pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot for a business meeting.
They were intrigued when they found out the mounds of gravel, piping and beams resting on the ground would be the foundation for a high-end restaurant and distillery operated by Otto’s ownership.
“We were talking about what it could be when we were parking,” Smalstig and Frank, of State College, said. “I’ll check it out.”
The new restaurant, called Barrel 21 Distillery and Dining, could be open as soon as January with construction for the foundation possibly beginning next week, co-owner and head brewer Charlie Schnable said. The restaurant will be about 6,000 square feet and will seat about 110 people — less than half the full seating capacity of Otto’s.
Beyond that, ownership and staff have said that details are being worked out for the restaurant’s menu and atmosphere.
Schnable said the menu would be small and simple and the distillery would make locally sourced fruit brandies, whiskey, rum and gin. According to Otto’s website, products purchased for its menu come from about 40 local businesses.
“It will be more of a special, locally sourced menu,” Schnable said. “That’s pretty much our focus at Otto’s, because we value other local businesses.”
Schnable said details about when Barrel 21 will operate on a daily and hourly basis have not been finalized, though it will likely be open less often than Otto’s.
The owners included their management team’s input for the new restaurant, though they were also tight-lipped on details.
“Our owners want to keep it a surprise, because they want there to be hype,” merchandise manager Neil Tomnay said. “It’ll be my first time opening a new restaurant, so it’s exciting, and it’s a little nerve-racking.”
Barrel 21’s entrance will face Fairfield Inn and Suites, and there will be paved parking lots on each side. Although there will be less room to park, Schnable said, lined spaces might increase the number of spaces.
He said customers he has talked to are looking forward to the grand opening.
“A lot of customers are excited at the prospect of a more intimate dining restaurant and distillery here,” Schnable said. “We’re excited, too. It’s going to be a huge expansion for us.”