If a local business has its way, Dawsonville’s first legal distillery could be making liquor in time for the Mountain Moonshine Festival in October.
The city’s decades-old celebration of fast cars and illegal spirits could very well coincide with the grand opening of Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery, a small manufacturing facility set for construction in early summer.
Entrepreneur Cheryl Wood applied last week for the distillery’s business license.
She’s also been talking with the mayor about putting it inside city hall, next door to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
The site currently houses an Italian restaurant.
Mayor Joe Lane Cox said there’s “quite a bit of construction that needs to be done to make it fit here, and she has a contractor as I understand it.”
Cox said the city would need to approve a lease and any construction work commissioned by Wood.
“I think it will help the racing hall of fame, and I think the racing hall of fame will help her,” Cox said. “They’ll complement each other.”
Mayor Pro-Tem James Grogan described the potential layout:
“People can wander in the distillery and wander out ... they’ll be able to look in and see the actual goings-on,” Grogan said.
He added that a tasting room could be a possibility at some point. Under current Georgia law, however, providing samples of distilled spirits is prohibited.
Distillers also cannot sell spirits on the premises.
The liquor must be sold to a distributor, who can then sell the alcohol to consumers.
“It’s got to go away to be sold, but people could see it being made and buy it elsewhere, assuming [local distributors] decided to carry it,” Grogan said.
There is currently one liquor store within the city limits.
Georgia codes do allow for beer and wine samples with special permits, but not liquor.
Grogan said distillery visitors could sample Dawsonville’s history.
“It just ties in so well with the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame,” he said. “Moonshine and fast cars.”
Grogan added that Wood wants to begin construction in June and be finished by October.
“She wants to be open in time for the Moonshine Festival,” he said.
Cox said Wood is having the moonshine still, a 200-gallon copper container, made.
“She’ll just bring that in and set it up once she gets the construction here done,” said Cox, adding that the still is being crafted in Kentucky.
The mayor said legal moonshine has been a long time coming for Dawsonville.
“We’ve been talking about having something like this since I got elected in 2004,” he said. “It’s something that helps us preserve our heritage.”
Wood and business partner Robert Suchke pitched their proposal to the city council in December.
The elected officials stopped short of approving the plan, but suggested the partners find a site and apply for a business license.