The Hamilton County Commission is taking the first step toward possible whiskey production in Chattanooga.
In front of a packed chamber, with the majority of people in attendance there to support founders of the Chattanooga Whiskey Company Joe Ledbetter and Tim Piersant, county commissioners agreed to accept a letter and entertain the idea of local production.
“The County Commission does not have the power to change the statute,” County Commission Chairman Larry Henry said. “It could make a formal appeal to the state Legislature to change the law. We are willing to bring that letter [before the commission].”
The letter needs signatures from six county commissioners in order to be sent to the state Legislature.
Commissioner Joe Graham said Thursday morning that, although he had been having mixed feelings on the issue, he would sign the letter.
Commissioner Warren Mackey has indicated that he supports local production.
If the letter gets six signatures, state leaders will then decide whether to let liquor production happen in Hamilton County.
A 2009 law allows counties where there are both operating liquor stores and liquor-by-the-drink sales to produce liquor.
And although Hamilton County meets both those requirements, at the time state leaders passed the law, officials decided to opt out and continue to prevent liquor manufacture in this area.
If the state Legislature approves the measure, local leaders will adopt a formal resolution to allow for production in Hamilton County.
The decision on the nonbinding resolution-which would require the six signatures for the letter to go to state leaders-is expected next Wednesday.
Nooga.com will have an updated story on this topic soon.