published Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Chattanooga Whiskey plans larger distillery in the heart of downtown

  • photo
    A large building at the corner of Forth Street and Market Street is the proposed new location for Chattanooga Whiskey's headquarters.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The three-story warehouse was too small to hold their dreams.

That’s why the makers of Chattanooga Whiskey say they’re scrapping a plan to build their distillery on the Scenic City’s Southside, turning instead to a building that’s twice as big, and which occupies a premium location in the middle of Chattanooga’s tourist district.

There will be offices. A tasting room. A barreling operation. A bottle shop. And of course, a whiskey still, all packed into the 60,000-square-foot structure that they’ll call the Tennessee Stillhouse. It will have a production capacity in the hundreds of thousands of cases per year, making it one of the larger craft distillers in the U.S., partners Joe Ledbetter and Tim Piersant say.

The four-story building in question, at the corner of Fourth Street and Market Street, isn’t used for much of anything right now. But step out of the back loading dock onto Broad Street, and both the Aquarium and the new High Point climbing wall, also known as The Block, are just steps away.

“We get a larger production capacity because the space is larger, we get more daily visibility and because largely speaking that’s where people spend time,” Ledbetter said. “Where with the previous facility, it’d be a little more of a destination.”

Ledbetter and Piersant acknowledge that they’ve been through this song and dance before. After waging a fierce legal battle to allow the production of whiskey in Chattanooga, the then-mustachioed merchants promised fans that work would begin immediately on a Southside distillery, as the company worked to raise financing for the venture.

The reason it’s taken so long, they say, is because they’ve been busy racking up the biggest private financing haul for a startup in Chattanooga history. They don’t want to say how much, but it’s in the millions.

“The deal was, we were putting a lot of pieces together, like a puzzle” Piersant said. “Part of that puzzling was financing.”

In fact, two years is a pretty quick turnaround to bring a business from idea to being one of the top 10 craft distilleries in the U.S., Piersant said.

Today, the partners own the building. It’s a done deal.

Bob Doak, head of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it’s too early to tell what the economic impact of the facility will be without concrete plans.

Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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