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Craft distilleries and wineries took a step closer to being allowed in James City County’s commercial areas Wednesday, a change prompted after several groups interested in starting the businesses approached the county in the past year.
The commercial areas already allow craft breweries that produce no more than 15,000 barrels of beer per year, however producers of liquor and wine are not currently permitted in commercial areas.
The groups that approached the county prompted county staff to recommend commercial areas allow small liquor and wine producers, a sentiment with which the James City County Planning Commission unanimously agreed at a meeting Wednesday.
The commissioners did not discuss the change prior to their vote. The vote sends a recommendation of approval to the James City County Board of Supervisors, which has the final say over the matter.
The new ordinance would allow craft wineries that produce no more than 15,000 barrels of wine a year and craft distilleries that produce no more than 36,000 gallons of liquor per year. It also allows for tap rooms, brew pubs and retail sales at businesses that produce the alcohol.
The commissioners also voted to recommend the supervisors incorporate into the county’s zoning ordinance a recently passed state law that requires municipalities to allow craft breweries and craft distilleries in farming areas as a permitted use. Wineries are already allowed as a permitted use on farming land.
The commissioners held public hearings Wednesday for anyone to share their thoughts about the expansion of small-scale alcohol production in commercial and farming areas, but nobody spoke.
Craft beer is defined by the Brewers Association as small, independent and traditional brewing operations that produce less than 6 million barrels of beer per year. The American Distilling Institute defines craft spirits as having come from independently-owned distilleries with maximum annual sales of 52,000 cases. The product must be distilled and bottled on site.
Craft alcohol production is a burgeoning part of the Historic Triangle’s economy, with several new businesses either in the planning stages or in the process of opening for business.
The Silver Hand Meadery is seeking permission from the City of Williamsburg to open for business at the Monticello Shopping Center, while Copper Fox Distillery has acquired the former Lord Paget Motel and is working to open there.
In York County, Williamsburg AleWerks has been operating since 2006 and The Virginia Beer Company is expected to open in the county this summer on Second Street. York County altered its zoning ordinance in December to open more areas of the county to alcohol production.