published Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Proposal to tax Jack Daniel's whiskey derailed

  • photo
    A bartender gets a bottle of Brown-Forman brand Jack Daniels whiskey off the shelf at a bar in San Francisco, Friday, March 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

JOE EDWARDS, Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The makers of Jack Daniel's whiskey can take a victory sip after a proposal by local officials to tax its barrels of booze was derailed before it could reach the Tennessee Legislature.

The Moore County Council in Lynchburg voted 10-5 Monday evening to rescind a vote asking lawmakers to authorize a local referendum on the proposal, which would have taxed Jack Daniel's up to $5 million annually with the revenue going to local coffers.

Charles Rogers of Lynchburg, who had spearheaded the effort, said the issue "is now on life support."

Jack Daniel's is the world's top-selling whiskey, distilled in the tiny town which has been celebrated in folksy, black-and-white advertisements for years.

State Rep. David Alexander, who represents Lynchburg and attended the meeting, said he considers the issue dead.

"It's the will of the people," he said of the council vote. "They have spoken."

A distillery spokesman did not return an after-hours call Monday for comment.

A previous vote was 9-5 to send the proposal to the legislature, and Rogers said he was told the town had been depicted as greedy in worldwide news reports about the proposal since the first vote.

The 145-year-old distillery, owned by Louisville, Ky.-based Brown-Forman Corp., now pays $1.5 million in local property taxes. Distillery officials had opposed the measure, saying Jack Daniel's is already paying its fair share.

Members of the legislature had said the proposal had little chance of passing.

The distillery, tucked away on 1,700 hilly acres in south-central Tennessee, has 450 employees, making it the largest industry in the small county. About 210,000 people visit the distillery annually, qualifying it as a top tourist draw in Tennessee.

Ironically, Moore County is dry, meaning the iconic Old No. 7 cannot be legally sold in the county, just distilled.

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