Morgan Co. voters overwhelmingly approve moonshine distillery

Voters in Morgan County overwhelmingly voted in favor of turning the old Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary into a moonshine distillery on Tuesday.

The Morgan County Election Commission said 2,369 (67.42%) people voted in favor of the proposal, with 1,145 (32.58%) in opposition.

The Brushy Mountain Group [BMG] from Chattanooga is spearheading the distillery project, which expects to bring more than 100 jobs to Morgan County and preserve a historic landmark. The prison has been closed for several years.

In addition to producing moonshine, the proposal also calls for a gift shop, museum, and horse trails.

To open the distillery, the public voted yes to allowing the "manufacture of intoxicating liquors and drinks in Morgan County."

Many religious groups are against the proposal. Some voters told 10News they cast their ballots against the referendum because permitting a distillery to operate in the old prison would require them to legalize the production of alcohol throughout the entire county.

Some local leaders believe the distillery would be good for the local economy and boost tourism by opening the gates to a historic prison.

"In the beginning, one of the very first things that would come online once we have everything to code would be the prison tour," said Brian May with the Brushy Mountain Group. "The prison is in pretty good shape and it wouldn't take a lot to get it to code and have it where we can do some tours."

State law will allow customers to buy up to five gallons of alcohol, similar to what's allowed at the Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg, which is also in a dry county.

Work on the distillery could start by mid-2014.

Reporter's Correction: During the 6 p.m. newscast, the report incorrectly stated Morgan County was a dry county with "no alcohol sales." The county is dry in terms of liquor sales, but beer can be legally purchased in Morgan County.


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