published Thursday, March 21st, 2013

The Right Side Round Table: Should distilleries be allowed to operate in Hamilton County?

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Bills sponsored by state Sen. Bill Ketron and state Rep. Joe Carr that would permit additional Tennessee counties to decide whether to allow alcohol distilleries are winding through the legislature. Do you believe that distilleries should be allowed in Hamilton County?

Allowing distilleries in Hamilton County is a matter of economic liberty, business friendliness and common sense. There is no rational justification for preventing a product that is legally sold in Hamilton County from being produced in Hamilton County.

It is no secret that if distilleries are allowed to operate in Hamilton County, Chattanooga Whiskey Co. will begin actually producing its whiskey in Chattanooga, instead of in a far-flung corner of Indiana, as it has to do now as a result of the current prohibition-era laws.

Such a distillery would create local jobs, boost the area's economy, increase local and state tax revenues, and draw visitors to Hamilton County.

Opponents of efforts to allow distilleries in Hamilton County claim that distilleries would increase alcoholism and the incidence of underage drinking.

That's absolutely absurd.

Allowing a high quality whiskey that's already sold in Chattanooga to be produced in Chattanooga won't even necessarily increase the amount of whiskey that Chattanooga Whiskey Co. produces. Further, an alcoholic is more likely to get his or her alcohol from a liquor store than a touristy distillery.

Teenage drinking won't spike either. The reality is kids don't buy a lot of $40-a-bottle, well-aged whiskey.

State lawmakers and county officials should work to eliminate the antiquated, illogical laws preventing distilleries in Hamilton County as soon as possible.

— THE FREE PRESS


Marty Haynes

Hamilton County Commissioner (District 3)

I, along with seven other county commissioners, signed a letter requesting that Hamilton County be included with more than 40 other counties in Tennessee to operate distilleries.

The decision for me was based on jobs and economic development within Hamilton County. Whiskey bearing Chattanooga's name is being distilled in Indiana. The owners of a local company wanted to bring those jobs here. It is my understanding that if the jobs were not located here, they would eventually go elsewhere in Tennessee. As a county commissioner I believe it is government's responsibility to create a positive climate for jobs in our area. If the jobs were coming to Tennessee, I wanted them here. By signing the letter, I believe we are helping to create more opportunity for jobs.

The County Commission did request the operation of distilleries be limited to jurisdictions in our county where both package sales and liquor by the drink had been approved by the voters.


Richard Floyd

Tennessee State Representative (27th District)

The proposed legislation that would allow distilleries in Hamilton County, HB102, is a bill crafted to help a few with a special interest.

This bill has no distance requirements pertaining to schools. Under the manufacturers license distilleries can manufacture, sell or give away their product next door to any school.

Until Monday, when an amendment was made to the bill, there were no distance requirements for houses of religious purposes better known in Hamilton County as "churches."

It is hard to believe how hard some will work to move earth, heaven and half of hell to accommodate the production, sale and distribution of America's No. 1 drug.

Simply put, this bill is an end run for a special interest with special consideration for a special few.


Tim Piersant

Vice President and co-owner of Chattanooga Whiskey Co.

Last week my Chattanooga Whiskey co-founder Joe Ledbetter received an email from Drew Johnson at the Times Free Press asking if we would respond to the question, "Should distilling be legal in Hamilton County?"

Joe immediately called me asking if I knew anything about this ridiculous law preventing distilleries in the county — and if there was any truth to it! As his not-so-confident business partner, I didn't quite know how to respond so I immediately Googled "Chattanooga Whiskey" and quickly discovered that our whiskey was made in INDIANA!

Needless to say with this news, the last 5 days have been an emotional roller coaster for Joe and me. We've been asking ourselves the same questions. Does Chattanooga need more jobs ... or another cool tourist destination? Do we really need more revenue for our city? Yes, and that's what Chattanooga Whiskey would provide if this legislation passes.

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