County working on rules change to permit distillery
DANVILLE — Vermilion County officials are working on changes to the county's liquor ordinance that would allow a father-daughter business team to open a micro-distillery east of Danville near the state line.
Amanda Galloway and her father, Cliff Cauley of Bismarck, plan to open Copper Ridge distillery later this year in a former package liquor store building next to the I&I Steakhouse at 4015 E. Main St., east of the Danville city limits.
Cauley has years of expertise in micro-distilleries, and Galloway recently completed a business plan for Copper Ridge for her master's degree. They plan to make varieties of whiskey and moonshine for distribution as well as offer taste tests and retail sales of their products. But Galloway said it will not be a bar and the liquor won't be sold for consumption on the premises.
Visitors will be able to watch the distilling process and learn the history of distilling in the United States. According to Cauley and Galloway, micro-distilleries are defined as making less than 100,000 gallons of spirits in a year. At Copper Ridge, they will make less than 15,000 gallons and will start off making about 5,000 gallons of whiskey a year, Cauley said.
Galloway said they really believe in the product.
"I think people will really like it," she said.
Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard said there's nothing in the county's liquor ordinance that would allow for a micro-distillery, so county officials plan to put something together and propose changes to the ordinance, allowing for this business. Weinard said the county's liquor ordinance hasn't been revamped in quite a while, and this offers the opportune time to rewrite it.
Not only do Cauley and Galloway have to secure a local county liquor license, there are state and federal requirements they must meet as well. They have already obtained status as a limited liability company, and plan to secure the local liquor license next.
Cauley said he and his daughter are catching onto a boom in micro-distilleries that started in California and grew out of the micro-brewery trend that took off in the 1990s.
Micro-distilleries, also known as craft or boutique distilleries, are a growing trend throughout the United States, according to the American Distilling Institute, which was created in 2003 to promote craft distilling, according to the institute's website.
According to the institute, in 2003, there were 69 craft distilleries holding federal Distilled Spirits Plant licenses issued through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Association bureau, part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Now, there are 240 and that number is expected to increase to 450 in the U.S. and Canada by the end of 2015.
There are no licensed micro-distilleries in central Illinois, according to the institute, and Cauley said there are only a handful in the state. There are several in the Chicago and St. Louis areas and one in Indianapolis, according to the distilling institute. With little competition in the region, Galloway and Cauley believe their location is ideal and gives them good access to Interstate 74 for distribution of their products. Cauley said they have a verbal agreement, at this point, with the owners of the I&I to operate out of their former package liquor store building.
According to Galloway and Cauley, the micro-distiller trend is due in part to the creation of more affordable distillers licenses, which make it feasible to run a small operation. In Illinois, the license costs $1,800 a year to make 15,000 gallons or less.
Cauley said the plan is to create a nostalgic, historical environment using old-school techniques in production that can be viewed by patrons, who will see the distiller working behind a glass partition. Cauley compared it with a small museum environment.
Cauley said he's excited to use locally grown grains in the distilling process. He said small-batch distillation allows for a better quality product, and that's the niche they hope to fill.