Hamilton Co. Commissioners mull lifting distillery prohibition - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Hamilton Co. Commissioners mull lifting distillery prohibition

Posted: Updated:

HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- To read the postings on their 'Vote Whiskey' Facebook page, you might believe that Chattanooga Whiskey founders Joe Ledbetter and Tim Piersant were trying to gather a flash mob to fill the chambers of the Hamilton County Commission Thursday.

Instead, it would look more like 'Business After Hours' gathered in front of Jefferson's Restaurant. Except it was nine in the morning. And they had no liquor.

Which was entirely their point.

"When I saw that a Chattanooga product was being made out-of-town, I just thought this didn't make a lot of sense," says lifelong Chattanoogan David Wills, an insurance consultant supporting the cause.

More than 450 signed up to attend. Roughly 75-100 enter the Commission meeting en masse.

"To request you ask the state delegation to add Hamilton County back into the 2009 bill which would allow us to make the product locally," Ledbetter tells Commissioners.

"We'd hire no less than ten employees," Piersant said. "Each making a salary of approximately $35,000 a year."

"You guys have done your homework real well," 4th District Commissioner Dr. Warren Mackey praises.

Dr. Mackey couches his questions to allow Ledbetter and Piersant to sell lifting the prohibition on liquor manufacturing and bottling as a boon for tax collections and tourism.

"Take one of our old buildings, restore it, put it in production, collect taxes off of it," Dr. Mackey pitches.

"We don't see any opposition here today," Ledbetter says. "Maybe there is."

There is.

"What message are we sending to our community in general, but even more specifically to our younger, impressionable minds," community activist Mark West asks. "Are we not communicating to them that the Almighty Dollar trumps all?"

West pleads that Commissioners consider their decision a 'vote of conscience and morality."

Sixth District Commissioner Joe Graham concedes he's conflicted. "Yes I will sign it to bring whiskey home," Graham says. "But I do think that those who've been criticized for taking strong stands against this issue, you owe 'em an apology."

Graham is referring to TN Rep. Richard Floyd (R-Chattanooga) who persuaded the Tennessee General Assembly to exclude Hamilton County from the enabling legislation in 2009.

"I've made known I oppose it on moral and religious grounds," Rep. Floyd tells Channel 3 via telephone Thursday. "But this legislation also end-runs the voters. They should be deciding this by referendum."

Floyd vows to "do everything in my power to stop it" should lawmakers reconsider the issue in January.

"We apologize to Representative Floyd, and I met with him personally," Ledbetter says. "He's a great guy, and we respect his opinions."

Chairman Larry Henry says Commissioners will vote next Wednesday, whether to draft a letter to Hamilton County's delegation urging they work to lift Hamilton County's liquor prohibition.

"We'll need a two-thirds vote, that's six Commissioners to sign it," he tells his colleagues.  'It's only the first step in process. If they agree, it'll come back to us and we'll draft a resolution."

Henry sought only one clarification.

"You will not be selling it on premises, is that correct," he says.

"Actually, that's not correct," Ledbetter responds, adding that a number of Tennessee distilleries; Jack Daniel's (Lynchburg) and George Dickel (Tullahoma) offer tours and tastings.

"It's a limited amount, but we would sell a small portion," Ledbetter explains.

Henry has not indicated whether that would be a deal-maker. Or breaker.

  • NewsMore>>

  • Israel pounds Gaza as it searches for soldier

    Israel pounds Gaza as it searches for soldier

    Saturday, August 2 2014 12:37 AM EDT2014-08-02 04:37:15 GMT
    A three-day cease-fire in the Gaza Strip has gone into effect following heavy Israel-Hamas fighting.More
    Israel launched dozens of airstrikes early Saturday in the southern Gaza Strip as part of a large-scale search for a soldier Israel suspects was captured by Hamas fighters.More
  • What to expect from CFC's NPSL Title Match opponent the NY Red Bulls U23

    What to expect from CFC's NPSL Title Match opponent the NY Red Bulls U23

    Saturday, August 2 2014 12:22 AM EDT2014-08-02 04:22:54 GMT
    Chattanooga FC has proved they're not like most NPSL teams. They're the only team to make three national title games. They're the only team that pushes the boundaries when it comes to attendance, in fact they hold the single game league record but they'll hit the field Saturday night, one win away from the team's first national title as an underdog. More
    Chattanooga FC has proved they're not like most NPSL teams. They're the only team to make three national title games. They're the only team that pushes the boundaries when it comes to attendance, in fact they hold the single game league record but they'll hit the field Saturday night, one win away from the team's first national title as an underdog. More
  • CPD hires new communications coordinator after internal job posting

    CPD hires new communications coordinator after internal job posting

    Friday, August 1 2014 6:40 PM EDT2014-08-01 22:40:36 GMT
    It took just four days and an internal-only posting for the City of Chattanooga to find its new communications coordinator for the Chattanooga Police Department. Mayor Andy Berke's former administrative assistant was selected for the job.More
    It took just four days and an internal-only posting for the City of Chattanooga to find its new communications coordinator for the Chattanooga Police Department. Mayor Andy Berke's former administrative assistant was selected for the job.More
Powered by WorldNow
Can't find what you're looking for?

WRCB-TV
900 Whitehall Road
Chattanooga, TN 37405
(423) 267-5412

WRCB Jobs EEO | FCC Public Files

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WRCB. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.