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Distillery approved for Maggie Valley

fr distilleryMaggie Valley Board of Aldermen welcomed Dave Angel to town Monday night after approving his request for a special exception permit to operate Elevated Mountain Distillery.

The company will be Maggie Valley’s first manufacturer and also its first distillery. Angel plans to open his new business venture in the former Carolina Nights dinner theater building located at 3732 Soco Road to produced craft spirits, including corn whiskey, bourbon, flavored moonshines and vodka. While the main business is manufacturing, there will also be a retail and tasting room component. 

Even though the property is zoned commercial, Angel had to request a special exception because a distillery is not a specific use listed in the town’s land development ordinance. However, all the board members, staff and many residents said it would fit perfectly with Maggie’s moonshine making heritage and tourism economy. 

“When I look at the tourist industry, this project is important because it’s the newest and most innovative business to come our way,” said Maggie Valley native Amy White, who is also a friend of Angel’s. “Dave is focused and dedicated to his career and family and I feel like he’d give the same amount of dedication to this valley.”

The town’s special exception process requires a semi-judicial public hearing process where the details of the project are laid out and the public has a chance to weigh in before the board makes a decision. Town Planner Andrew Bowen said he worked closely with Angel on ironing out details and feels confident the project would not cause adverse effects on the valley, which is what must be shown to issue the special permit. 

“Alcohol sales and consumption is truly not what we’re here to talk about,” Bowen pointed out. “If someone put a sprinkler system in that building they could open a bar or night club without having to get special permission from the town. We’re here more to talk and consider the manufacturing side of this industry.”

Bowen said Angel had a detailed business plan and financial projections and planned to do major renovations to the interior of the building to make it suit his needs. Traffic volumes will not be a problem with the 93 available parking spots on the property. Bowen said it would probably generate much less traffic counts than Carolina Nights did when it operated. 

As for environmental concerns, Bowen said there was no evidence or concern that the distillery would create nuisance noise or smells during production. All refuge will be contained and shielded from the public eye and spent grain from production will be donated to farmers. All of the utilities he needs — water, trash and sewer — can easily be supplied by the town.

The building is located in a mixed-use area with several abutting residential properties behind it, a church adjacent to the property and other commercial businesses across the street. Bowen said the state requires distilleries to be at least 50 feet away from any religious institution. The distillery would be 212 feet away from the Maggie Valley First Baptist Church’s fellowship hall and 470 feet away from the main sanctuary. Salty Dog’s Seafood and Grill across the street has a bar and has been operating 380 feet away from the church for many years. Angel has spoken to all the adjoining property owners and received positive feedback on the project.

Based on Bowen’s findings, he said the Maggie Valley Planning Board recommended that the board of aldermen approve the permit. 

“The distillery will not adversely affect the public interest — it’s in a commercial district and tourism is a large part of Maggie’s economy,” Bowen said. “It’s vital in any small town economics to diversify the economy.”

Angel, a Tuscola High School grad who moved back to Waynesville about three years ago, said he’s been working on this project for more than a year. While he was originally looking to locate in Waynesville, he said the late Mayor Ron DeSimone encouraged him to look at the Carolina Nights building and become a part of the Maggie Valley community.

“I had the wonderful opportunity to meet him the day before his accident — he made such an impression on me,” Angel said. “He said, ‘Dave, the Carolina Nights building meets all your requirements, but that’s not why you want to come to Maggie.’ He talked about history and traditions — making moonshine and whiskey is a deep part of tradition in Maggie Valley.”

Maggie Valley’s natural resources were also a selling point for Angel. 

“The aquifer that forms Campbell Creek has the most pristine water you can imagine,” he said. “Where you find the world’s best water is where you make the world’s best whiskey and spirits.”

With the booming bourbon trail in Kentucky and the growing popularity of the newly formed craft distillery trail in North Carolina, Angel is confident that his business can attract new tourists and also extend the stay of tourists already coming to Maggie Valley for other anchor attractions like Wheels Through Time and Cataloochee Ski Resort. 

Of all the people who spoke during the public hearing, only one resident was against having the distillery. Walter Davis, who has lived in town since 1994, said he was glad a buyer had come forward for the building that has been vacant for so long but didn’t agree with the use. 

“I don’t know why we’d be proud to have a distillery here,” he said. “We have people who say we need change but sometimes we get change we don’t want.”

North Carolina law only allows distilleries to sell one bottle to one customer once a year. People who come to tour the facility will be able to taste up to six of the products, but only in quarter-ounce cups. The distillery would only be able to sell bottles of its product during hours when the ABC store is open — meaning the distillery can’t sell on Sundays. 

Wayne Burgess with the Baptist church next door said the church would work with Angel and wanted to be a good neighbor. Since children at the church often play in the empty lot between the Carolina Nights building and the church, he said they might want to work together to build a fence to prevent children from wandering up on the loading dock. 

Shirley Pinto, who lives behind Carolina Nights, said she supported the business because it was tourism related, which is the driving force to the town’s economy. As for the concerns about alcohol, she said the residents had the same kind of concerns in the 1970s when the town began allowing alcohol sells through the ABC stores. Even with opposition from many, she said she supported it because alcohol was already in Maggie Valley — it was just done illegally. 

“People are going to drink — we’re not going to stop it,” she said. “I would rather see it here the way David’s going to do it.”

After brief discussion from the aldermen, the board approved the distillery’s request unanimously. Alderman Phillip Wight thanked Angel for coming to Maggie Valley. 

“I’m excited you’re here. I think it’s a perfect fit with year round potential,” he said. 

Angel hopes to close on the property by the end of the year and renovations will be under way through March. If all goes as planned, he hopes to be open by summer 2016.

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