Per­mit cre­ates path for dis­tillery tap­rooms

The News-Times - - BUSINESS - By Jor­dan Grice Jor­[email protected]­ct.com

It may take a year, but Connecticu­t dis­tillers will be able to open their own tap­rooms.

The state’s beer and al­co­hol laws are set for sev­eral up­grades in a bill meant to stream­line the in­dus­try, in­clud­ing the re­cently drafted craft café per­mit which will pave the way for dis­til­leries to serve drinks out of their own tap­rooms.

“It’s go­ing to be a huge thing for us,” said Tom Dubay, Connecticu­t Spir­its Trail pres­i­dent and CEO of Hart­ford Fla­vor Co., which makes Wild Moon Liqueurs.

The bill has to be signed by Gov. Ned La­mont, but the new per­mit would be avail­able to dis­tillers, brew­ers and vint­ners, and would al­low per­mit hold­ers to sell al­co­hol if it’s man­u­fac­tured in the state.

It’s been roughly four years since dis­tillers got the abil­ity to sell bottles in their tast­ing rooms, but un­like brew­eries, cus­tomers haven’t been able get more than a two-ounce sam­ple at the busi­nesses — which has hin­dered growth and sus­tain­abil­ity, Dubay said.

“Their ex­pe­ri­ence was nice but kind of hol­low if they wanted to en­joy a cock­tail or two, so this will re­ally open up the gate for us to be able to make it more of a longer ex­pe­ri­ence and make a lit­tle rev­enue out of the tast­ing room as well,” he said.

If signed, it would take ef­fect next July and of­fer par­ity with brew­eries and winer­ies, which al­ready can sell from their busi­nesses. Dis­tillers have ar­gued for sev­eral years that their mar­ket has been at a dis­ad­van­tage com­pared with brew­eries which have been able to open tap­rooms since 2012.

Connecticu­t’s beer in­dus­try has con­tin­ued to grow in re­cent years — a re­cent study from the Na­tional Beer Whole­salers As­so­ci­a­tion and the Beer In­sti­tute showed Connecticu­t’s beer in­dus­try con­trib­utes $3.1 bil­lion an­nu­ally to the state’s econ­omy. That’s com­pared with $745.7 mil­lion in 2017, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates from the Brew­ers As­so­ci­a­tion.

More than 90 craft brew­eries have opened in the state in the past decade, and dis­tillers have main­tained that the craft spir­its mar­ket could do the same, given the chance.

“I don’t know if we will see an ex­plo­sion of other dis­tillers in the state, but there is a long way be­fore there is a dis­tillery on ev­ery cor­ner,” said Ted Dum­bauld, owner of SoNo 1420 Amer­i­can Craft Dis­tillers in Norwalk.

The Norwalk-based dis­tiller said the new per­mit could in­cen­tivize as­pir­ing dis­tillers to set up shop.

Frank Whitman / For Hearst Connecticu­t Me­dia

Rob Schul­ten ex­plain­ing the dis­till­ing process at Asy­lum Dis­tillery in Bridge­port.

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