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Concerns surround 'Chattanooga Whiskey' bill

11:08 PM, Mar 1, 2013   |    comments
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Lawmakers are considering a bill that has a Gatlinburg distillery concerned.

The bill is designed to give Chattanooga Whiskey the right to make its product in Chattanooga, but it would change who has the authority to approve a distillery in a community.

Currently, the county has exclusive authority, and that would change.

It would allow the operation of distilleries in cities where voters have approved liquor by the drink and local package referendums, even if the county is dry.

State Representative Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, is sponsoring the bill in the House; it would amend a 2009 state law.

"Let's say in the case of Chattanooga, you've got a county that is dry and you've got several counties that are wet. Well the county doesn't want a distillery in the unincorporated areas, but Chattanooga may. So what we're saying is we're allowing Chattanooga to allow them to have a distillery if they've had a double referendum within their city limits," Rep. Carr explained.

Joe Baker, co-owner of Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine, supports Chattanooga Whiskey.

But Baker believes another part of the bill would take away local control, removing limitations on the number of licenses that can be issued.

It would also eliminate distance requirements, meaning a competing business could set up right next to Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine.

"If the city were overrun with spirits, things could just get out of hand, and I think that's why regulations and certain distance requirements have been in place for so long," Baker said.

He went on to say, "For us and for other high traffic tourist areas, we want to be able to attract families."

Rep. Carr delayed the bill for a week.

A subcommittee will review the bill on March 6.

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