Local distilleries get green light to offer food, drinks

Ohio legislators pave the way for expansion of growing business sector

A bill approved by legislators that would ease restrictions on Ohio’s craft distilleries was hailed as a “game-changer” by one local distillery co-founder today.

The proposal, House Bill 351, paves the way for Ohio distilleries to produce more spirits, to offer cocktails mixed with their products, and to serve food to visitors was approved by the Ohio General Assembly last week and is awaiting Gov. John Kasich’s signature.

Joe and Melissa Duer, founders of Indian Creek Distillery in Miami County, testified twice in favor of the legislation, and welcomed its passage. Melissa Duer said the bill puts craft distillers “on parity with the many breweries and wineries throughout the state.”

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us … it’s a real game-changer,” Duer said.

The legislation — co-sponsored by State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek — allows Ohio craft distilleries to increase their manufacturing from 10,000 gallons to 100,000 gallons annually. It also allows distilleries to obtain a license that permits them to serve their distilled liquor, and other alcoholic beverages, by the glass in their facilities, and to serve food there as well.

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“This bill rolls back restrictive regulation, allowing micro-distilleries to thrive in Ohio’s economy by unleashing their production and enabling them to serve their customers in exciting new ways,” Perales said in a release.

The current 10,000 gallon production cap is lower than any of Ohio’s border states, and handcuffs distilleries such as the Belle of Dayton distillery in Dayton’s Oregon District, Belle of Dayton co-founder Mike LaSelle said this morning, May 31.

Belle of Dayton is increasing its offerings and expanding availability to other Ohio cities, and the smaller limit probably would have forced its owners to cut back future production of some of their spirits, LaSelle said. There are no immediate plans to add food or cocktails at Belle of Dayton, he said.

Brad Measel, co-founder of Stillwrights Distillery in Bath Twp. near Fairborn, said he and his partners would like to launch a “Stillwrights Made Here Cafe” that would serve beer, spirits, soda pop and food produced within the state’s borders.

There’s no precise timetable for the expansion. “We will be phasing it in as we can afford to, starting in the distillery and eventually adding a new space toward the barrel-storage end of the building,” Measel said.

Kerry Scheuner, who with her husband Hajo owns S&G Artisan Distillery/The Spirits of Yellow Springs, also was hoping the bill would pass. The distillery is expanding its tasting room and production facilities and intends to release more of its products into wider distribution, and eventually, it will offer tours, Scheuner said this morning.

The ability to serve cocktails will allow S&G’s owners to better showcase their spirits to visitors, Scheuner said.

Duer, whose husband makes whiskeys in the same copper-pot stills that her great-great-great-grandfather Elias Staley used to distill rye whiskey in the early 19th century, said the new law will unlock the distillery’s potential.

“This will open the door for us to increase heritage and agri-tourism here at the Staley Mill Farm,” Duer said.

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