CHAMPAIGN — Scott Cochrane has been planning to add a distillery to his Midtown Crossing development, along with a brewery and restaurant.
But the city’s ordinances make no mention of distilleries.
“I asked the city ... to look at it for me,” Cochrane said. “They don’t know if I needed it ... and weren’t sure how to handle it.”
A new brewery, distillery and restaurant, along with 10 upscale apartments, are all part of bar owner Scott Cochrane's plans for his project at Chester and Water streets just east of downtown Champaign.
To clarify the situation, the Champaign Plan Commission will take up the matter at its meeting Wednesday.
A city proposal would allow distilleries and micro-distilleries to be built in commercial or industrial zones. Such businesses also would be allowed to have a tasting room.
A distillery would be defined as a “facility where grains and/or fruits are distilled into spirituous liquor,” and a micro-distillery wouldn’t be allowed to produce more than 50,000 proof gallons per year.
Proof gallons are a measurement of a spirit’s alcohol concentration in proportion to its liquid volume, where a gallon of 100-proof vodka would be equivalent to one proof gallon, while a gallon of light beer would be far less.
“Craft alcohol in general is a growing trend that started with breweries, and we thought it was the right time to update the code,” Associate Planner Tina-Marie Ansong said.
“According to the American Craft Spirits Association, the number of active craft distilleries in the U.S. grew by 15.5% between 2016 and 2017 to 1,835 distilleries,” she wrote in her report to the planning commission.
“The craft distilling industry sold nearly 7.2 million cases in 2017, up 23.7% in volume over 2016. For small craft distilleries, direct sales at the micro-distilleries account for a whopping 40% of total sales.”
If the commission recommends approval of the proposal, the Champaign City Council would take up the issue Nov. 5, Ansong said.
Cochrane said he’s still working on his Midtown Crossing project.
Last year, the city council approved $300,000 in redevelopment grants for the $1.67 million project, which Cochrane’s company would receive once it’s complete.
Last month, the council approved an extension for these grants, giving Cochrane until the end of 2020 to complete the project if he gets started by July 1, 2020.
“We’re working,” said Cochrane, who’s also busy with winding down the Campustown bar Kam’s by Oct. 20 and ramping up construction of the new one at First and Green streets.