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A new shot for distillers
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A new liquor bill being introduced to the Georgia legislature would allow distilleries across the state to sell their products on site, including at the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery.

Georgia law currently forbids distilleries from retailing their own products. Visitors to the Dawsonville distillery, for example, must go to a local liquor store to purchase them.

There is a three-tiered system in place in Georgia, and this new bill would keep that system in place, but allow distilleries to sell a small amount of their product on site, Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) said.

The three-tier system refers to a 80-year-old liquor distribution model in place since the era of prohibition that includes the manufacturer, wholesalers/distributors and retailers.

The bill drafted by Tanner defines a small amount as 1.75 liters per day per customer, or approximately two bottles.

If Tanner can gather enough votes to get the bill passed, distilleries would still sell their products to a distributor, but would be allowed to purchase a retail license through the Department of Revenue (for approximately $150), to sell on site.

I want to see the Dawsonville distillery operate as a successful tourism attraction, Tanner said.

The bill is so new it has not been given a formal number.

During the 2013 legislative session, House Bill 185 sponsored by Rusty Kidd (I-District 145, Milledgeville), also sought on-site sales at distilleries but failed to come up for a vote. The bill, however, is still alive in committee.

The bill Im working on is more of a compromise bill, Tanner said. The difference between the two is that mine keeps the three-tier system in place; it defines the size of a craft distillery as a producer who makes less than 50,000 gallons per year, and the distiller sells to the distributor, then buys it back.

Tanner said there is also a mechanism in the bill that would prohibit a distillery from undercutting retail prices.

Dawson County Chamber President, Christie Haynes, supports Tanners efforts.

Visitors expect to be able to buy product after taking a tour of distilleries, and this legislation provides a fix to the system so that expectations of the visitors can be met, she said. This will have a positive impact on one of our local businesses as well as continue moving our community forward in our goal of being a top tourism destination.

Tanner said theres a 50/50 chance the bill will pass.

This is all about compromise, he said, and Ive been working on this bill for a few months. I think Ive found a good middle- ground.

The bill may be presented as early as this weeks legislative session.

Once it is read on the House floor, the bill is assigned a number. From there it is assigned to a committee, then the chair may or may not call for a hearing on the bill.

Next, the committee may pass the bill or do nothing. If it is passes committee, then it goes to the Rules Committee which decides whether or not the bill would go to the floor for a vote. If approved, the bill passes to the Senate and the process begins again, Tanner said.

I think we have a good chance of getting it passed, but Im only one legislator, he said. Weve received very positive response.

Dawsonville and Dawson County have a rich history of making moonshine and delivering it to thirsty patrons in Atlanta.

It is part of the history of our community, Tanner said. A lot of people back then survived by making it, or selling sugar, or working on cars certainly not everyone but a lot of people.

Its a good bill for our community.