Mayor and council raised their glasses Monday to a zoning amendment that will accommodate a craft distillery downtown.
Gareth Jones of Jones Distilling Ltd. told council at the city’s planning and development services meeting about his plan for a small scale distillery of vodka, gin and whiskey at the former Honda dealership site.
He said there’s a resurgence in craft distilleries across the province and the country, following behind the brewing industry’s trend by about 10 years. Jones said they’re fulfilling consumers’ wishes for an organic product made and sourced locally.
Kevin Pearson, the city’s director of development services, explained the amendment would add craft distillery to the C-3 zone, because currently the only zoning allowing the use is in the industrial park. But that zone doesn’t limit the size of a distillery, and the industrial park isn’t an appropriate location for the craft distillery proposed.
Jones said his new venture will provide a tasting room which would transition into a bar area, with the plan to serve food once it’s established.
“For me, it’s all about the product,” he enthused, explaining that he needs to make vodka in order to produce the gin. He’ll also produce whiskey, but it must be in a barrel for three years before it’s ready to be consumed.
He pointed to Okanagan Spirits in Kelowna where customers can walk in, see the products and the still at work.
Under provincial regulations, a craft distillery can produce no more than 50,000 litres of product per year, and the amendment to the city’s C-3 zone will limit a distillery’s size to 275 square metres.
Pearson explained there are about 80 properties along the highway corridor zoned C-3, so the change allowing craft distilleries would apply to all of them. However, structural and architectural reviews would be required in each to ensure adequate fire separation.
Jones expects he will produce about half the allowed amount – 25,000 litres.
He said the craft distillery should evolve into a $4 to 4.5-million business, one which would provide economic benefits to the community such as tourism synergies and complementing not competing with wineries.
He expects to employ 10 to 15 people depending on how the business grows.
Council was unanimously supportive of the plan, asking for a few details such as whether the distillery would produce odours.
Jones said carbon dioxide would be exhausted when the mash is being heated, “like a furnace,” and the other product would be steam. He said it’s unlikely that an odour would be noticed.
A public hearing is set for Monday, Nov. 9 in council chambers.