Craft distilleries encouraged by Montgomery County

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Craft distilleries will be welcome in Montgomery County following a recent policy change designed to encourage these entrepreneurs to locate here.

“We were contacted by a couple of entrepreneurs who wanted to start a distillery,” said Councilmember Hans Riemer. “They came to me through Julie Verratti [of Denizen’s Brewing Co.] and they asked for clarification about where distilling is allowed by zoning.”

Originally, distilling was only allowed in the heavy industrial areas, he said.

That led to a series of meetings among various county and economic development parties. The Department of Permitting Services pointed out that there already had been created a craft manufacturing use, which covers distilling as well, but the specific rules needed to be put together for this use.

The policy was announced in a recent press to release that said the zoning code “allows the annual production of up to 50,000 gallons of distilled liquor in certain commercial/residential mixed-use zones. For companies that grow or are at greater levels of production, of between 50,000 and 100,000 gallons of distilled liquor will be allowed in light industrial zones. More than 100,000 gallons of distilled liquor are allowed in heavy manufacturing zones.”

The change applies to the Silver Spring Central Business District, among other areas. A place like the former Pyramid Atlantic building or the area of South Silver Spring that includes a number of auto service businesses could be possible locations, Riemer said, along with portions of Lyttonsville.

“Applying the new artisan zone to distilleries makes clear to artisans, craftspeople and small businesses that Montgomery County welcomes and supports their spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship and has the places for them to locate, create, market and grow,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett in the release. “County residents spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year on beer, wine and spirits and this will help encourage ‘home-grown’ products.”

Recent state legislation will allow Maryland distilleries to sell products directly to restaurants and stores. However, in Montgomery County, distillers who want to see their products in retail stores still will have to sell through the Department of Liquor Control, though they can sell directly stores in other Maryland counties.

“I hope over the next couple of years, we’re going to start to see a growing, thriving distillery sector,” Riemer said. “It’s part of a big-picture movement to support local production and locally produced goods.”

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