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Bill opens new doors for local distillery
Awaits governors signature
A-Moonshine pic4
A state Senate bill will allow distilleries to charge a fee for tours, which would serve as a means to give a souvenir bottle of their product to 21 and older visitors. - photo by File photo

Visitors touring the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery who want to take home a bottle of the signature backwoods spirits today have to leave the premises, drive a half mile away and shop at the local package store.

But that will soon change after last week's passage of what is better known as the Beer Jobs Bill in the Georgia General Assembly.

Senate Bill 63 allows distilleries to charge a fee for tours, which would serve as a means to give a souvenir bottle of their product to 21 and older visitors. Craft beer breweries will also be able to charge for tours and include 72 ounces of product in their tour price for legal-age attendees.

"What a blessing for small business," said Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan. "This will allow the distillery enough sales to help pay for their expenses on sight, all or at least most of it."

Housed at the Dawsonville Municipal Complex, the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery is open daily for tours and tastings.

"[The bill] also promotes our downtown, bringing visitors to the distillery and the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame," Grogan said.

The Dawsonville distillers, who could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, have pushed for years to have the option to sell their product on site.

Distiller Dwight Bearden has said the ability to sell bottles of the spirits would be a big boon for the local business.

"We're just edging by the way it is now," he told state legislators touring the facility in the summer of 2013.

Designed to create jobs while increasing tourism in an industry that is relatively new to the state, the bill will "enhance the distillery experience of those visiting our area," according to Christie Haynes, president of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce and office of tourism development.

"For the past three years our chamber and advocacy committee has included in our legislative agenda changes to not only increase tourism investment in our community but to also allow for a better visitor experience," she said. "[The bill] will help bring more jobs to the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery."

Last month, Haynes and NASCAR legend Bill Elliott, who is also the face of the distillery and has a signature flavor that is produced in Dawsonville, spoke to a subcommittee of the state's Senate Regulated Industries committee to explain the importance of the legislation.

Haynes believes the bill will complement the state's Three Tier System that starts with a manufacturer, then a distributor and finally the retailer.

"When someone pays to tour our distillery, they will receive a complimentary bottle of our local moonshine," she said. "When they return home, they can ask their local retailer to carry the product, if they don't already.

"The change that this legislation provides for will allow distilleries (and breweries) to help build their brand while encouraging increased retail sales from local liquor stores."