‘GAME-CHANGER’: Ohio’s small distilleries catch big break from the state

The Ohio Division of Liquor Control has changed some of its policies to make it easier for small distilleries across the state to provide its products to bars and liquor stores — and some Dayton-area distilleries are praising the move as a potential game-changer for them.

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The new policy allows Ohio micro-distillers to sell spirits at wholesale directly to all permit holders authorized to sell liquor in the state of Ohio, according to a spokeswoman for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and its interim superintendent, Jim Canepa. The state uses two giant warehouses in the Cleveland and in the Columbus areas from which liquor is distributed through the state’s distribution system.

The move removes some red tape and logistical obstacles for micro-distilleries, while preserving the taxes and fees that accompany liquor-sale transactions in Ohio, where the state government controls the sale of liquor.

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“This new policy will give micro-distilleries a better opportunity to not only promote their product to bars and restaurants, but to supply these bars and restaurants immediately should they choose to carry and serve the product,” liquor-control officials said in a release. “These distillers can market their product in a whole new way, making the concept of ‘buying local’ that much easier.”

Reaction to the change ranged from cautious optimism to robust enthusiasm.

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“This looks fantastic,” said Brad Measel, co-founder of Flat Rock Spirits/Stillwrights Distillery in Bath Twp. just outside Fairborn. “The state has made it very simple for us to sell directly to bars and restaurants.

“We are thrilled at this development. It should make an impact on our business right away.”

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Melissa Duer, co-founder of Indian Creek Distillery in Miami County’s Bethel Twp., called the policy change a potential “game-changer” and “an incredible move in the right direction for craft distillers in Ohio. … We can now visit restaurants and bars and, on the spot, take an order and deliver our products to them.”

Mike LaSelle, co-founder of Belle of Dayton, said the new policy appears to be geared toward limited, small-batch and seasonal releases. Belle of Dayton’s products are sold year-round in growing quantities, so the new policy will likely have little impact on the Oregon District distillery, LaSelle said.

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Jim Finke — president of Crystal Spirits, which bottles Buckeye Vodka — also said it’s not clear what the immediate impact the policy changes will have on his Dayton-based distillery. “We just put in a request to the state to learn more about it,” Finke said.

In his letter to distilleries, Canepa added, “The state of Ohio has a wide array of distilleries. From product type to distribution size, they run the gamut. Some distilleries have been in production for years and have the capacity to distribute their product across the state.

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“Others are more tourism-based or they are just starting to grow their business and have more of a regional focus. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for incorporating these different business models into one statewide Liquor Enterprise. This new policy gives micro-distillers across the state a chance to grow their business.”

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