Distillery referendum approved in Morgan County

WARTBURG, Tenn. - Voters in Morgan County have approved a referendum that allows an old prison to be turned into a distillery.

WATE-TV reports voters approved the measure Tuesday night by a margin of 1,224 ballots.

The station reports the vote clears the way for a developer to turn the old Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary into a distillery with a campground and other attractions.

Although the vote allows liquor to be manufactured in Morgan County, it still prohibits it from being served.

"The area needs this, so hopefully the people will accept it and bring it in," Petros resident Mark Tucker said outside a polling place on election day.

The measure will allow people to purchase up to five gallons of alcohol in commemorative bottles.

"It could change the course of what happens here in Morgan County, because of the allowing the distillation of spirits and liquor in the county," said Don Edwards, Morgan County Executive.

The Brushy Mountain Group, which plans to develop the property, says a distillery is a small part of the project that will also offer an RV park, horse stables, a bed and breakfast and prison tours.

"We're here to take something that is a liability and turn it into an asset for a county that has one of the highest unemployment in the state," said Brian May, one of three partners at BMG. He said the project will attract tourist and improve the economy.

Those who opposed the measure said they were concerned about alcohol sales.

"We are for jobs and for the development of brushy, but just without alcohol. That's our main concern," said Paul Frick, pastor at Liberty Baptist Church.