COURTHOUSE – The introduction of an amendment to allow farm distilleries under the city zoning code, based on a change by the General Assembly to the state code, led to some discussion this past month at City Hall.
Not all of it was serious.
“It says this is for beverages other than beer and wine and … the agricultural products need to be raised on the farm,” said Councilmember Barbara Henley, who represents the Princess Anne District, where that sort of thing might someday occur.
To be clear – there are no known distilleries clamoring for the opportunity, at present, City staff members have explained the change as largely procedural so city code lines up with state code.
“All I can think of is corn liquor,” Henley, a farmer, noted during the session prior to the evening’s regular meeting.
“You got a problem with that?” Mayor Will Sessoms quipped.
Henley offered that moonshine has been known to appear the former Princess Anne County area, though generally in the past.
“I want to know what we need to produce,” she added, joking.
“Henley Farms goes global,” Councilmember Bob Dyer said.
“I don’t think strawberries,” Henley said.
The change allows for the addition of the farm distillery use, similar to existing categories such as farm winery and farm brewery.
A distiller under this classification would have a limited distiller’s license to produce no more than 36,000 gallons of beverages other than wine or beer each year.
That is quite a bit of spirits, though. Of 32 distilleries in the commonwealth, only 10 manufacture more than 5,000 gallons per year, according to information filed with the state senate bill.
The state alcoholic beverage control department estimates that perhaps two of those produce more than 36,000 gallons annually. The distillery needs to be located on the farm owned or leased by the producer, and agricultural products in the process are grown on the farm.