Bill for Gatlinburg Moonshine, Chattanooga Whiskey Gets House OK

After long and contentious debate Monday night, the House joined the Senate in approving legislation that clears the way for a new moonshine distillery in Gatlinburg and a whiskey distillery in Chattanooga.
The bill (SB129) also allows new distilleries to locate in other cities that have approved liquor-by-the-drink and liquor package stores. Under a prior law enacted in 2009, only county governments – not cities – were allowed to authorize distilleries.
Sponsor Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, said the measure originated with Chattanooga officials desire to have a brand called Chattanooga Whiskey, now made in Indiana, manufactured in its namesake city even though Hamilton County has not authorized distilleries.
It was expanded to allow a new moonshine distillery, Sugarlands, to locate in Gatlinburg, even though local officials have turned down its application and make what Carr called “cleanup” revisions to state alcoholic beverage laws. Gatlinburg already has Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery operating near the site of the proposed Sugarlands distillery, which counts Nashville lobbyist David McMahan as a minority investor.
Thirteen amendments were filed on the House floor to change the bill. Only one was adopted, but that will send the bill back to the Senate for concurrence. The adopted amendment, proposed by Carr, says a distillery cannot be located within 2,000 feet of a church or school – unless the local government having jurisdiction decides to set a shorter limit. That is the same rule that now applies to beer sales, Carr said.
One of the rejected amendments, filed by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, would have had the effect of blocking Sugarlands by declaring local governments could reject a distillery application. Faison said the bills was influenced by “high-powered people who have a lot of money” and should not be “dictating” how many distilleries a town can have for “high-powered corn in a jar.”
“This amendment creates a monopoly in a particular part of the state. That’s a fact,” responded Carr, reminding colleagues that the Ole Smoky operators ran a newspaper ad charging that legislators were trying to “sneak through” a bill to curb local control over liquor.
Faison’s amendment was killed on a 55-28 vote. Other rejected amendments included one by Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, that would have prohibited distilleries and wineries from selling their products on Sunday.
The bill itself passed 57-31 with six lawmakers abstaining.

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