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Micro-distillery, micro-winery blanket approval concerns expressed

Published 12:14am Friday, June 21, 2013

NATCHEZ — Natchez’s first rum micro-distillery is one step closer to opening its doors.

The Natchez Planning Commission approved Wednesday an amendment to the city’s development code to add micro-distillery and micro-winery to the definition of micro-brewery and allow the businesses in the B-3, B-4 and in the city and by special exception in the B-2 and waterfront districts.

The commission’s approval is a recommendation to the Natchez Board of Aldermen that the amendment be approved. The board of aldermen has the final say.

The amendment came at the request of local businessman Doug Charboneau, who is hoping to open a rum micro-distillery in the building that formerly housed King’s Tavern on Jefferson Street.

Charboneau requested that micro-breweries, micro-distilleries and micro-wineries be allowed outright in B-2 district, in which his business would sit.

But the commission cited concerns of “blanket approval” for the businesses in B-2 district because B-2 properties are scattered throughout the city, some in residential areas, rather than being located in one contiguous area.

Commissioners said, however, they were not concerned about Charboneau’s proposed operation.

“We don’t have a problem with it in your location,” Commissioner Butch Johnson told Charboneau. “We just want to keep from having blanket approval (for micro-distilleries) … for all B-2 (properties).”

If the Natchez Board of Aldermen approves the planning commission’s recommendation, Charboneau will need to return to the planning commission for approval of a special exception for his proposed micro-distillery or a rezoning of his property, City Planner Frankie Legaux said.

If the board decides to approve the amendment as Charboneau originally requested it, allowing micro-distilleries in the B-2 district, Charboneau will not have to return again to the commission for approval, Legaux said.

Charboneau plans to open the micro-distillery with his son, Jean Luc, sometime in the first quarter of next year.

Charboneau’s wife, local chef Regina Charboneau, plans to open a gourmet pizza restaurant and specialty gift shop permitted as a package store in the former King’s Tavern restaurant location. The shop will sell craft liquors used in the restaurant that are not available anywhere else locally.

A micro-distillery, also called a craft distillery, produces spirits in relatively small quantities. Charboneau has said by industry standards, a distillery is considered a micro-distillery if it produces 40,000 or fewer cases a year. He said his distillery would be producing much less than that.

The proposed micro-distillery would be open for tours when production is not happening and would be permitted by state law to offer limited samples to visitors 21 and older, Charboneau has said.

In other news from the meeting:

4Several Dana Road residents voiced concerns about an application to construct an assisted living facility on John R. Junkin Drive after the commission voted to continue the application to a specially called meeting on July 1.

The facility would abut the Glenwood subdivision, in which the residents live.

The residents had questions concerning methods of objecting to the development and the process by which the development would be approved or denied.

Legaux explained that any residents can submit a letter of objection or support to the city planning office or appear before the commission to speak about the proposed development.

The two issues at hand for the development are the site plan approval for the actual facility and the zoning of the property.

The city denied a request for rezoning from the developer, Gayle Evans, in 2009, halting the project.

The zoning of the property is again in question, Legaux said, and will be addressed at the July 1 meeting.