Morgan Co. voters to decide on Brushy Mtn. distillery

(WBIR - Wartburg, TN) Legal moonshine could soon come to one East Tennessee county through a spot that used to house people who ran on the wrong side of the law.

Next Tuesday, residents in Morgan County will vote on whether to approve the construction of a distillery in that dry community.

Early voting is already underway.

If passed, a distillery could directly create more than 100 jobs for the Morgan County community. Some local leaders are also hopeful it could lead to a bump in tourism.

But, the alcohol, which is at the center of the distillery proposal, is causing some controversy.

Reverend Roy Langley said he fears legal moonshine could spell trouble.

"The scripture tells us, Thessalonians 5:22, abstain from the very appearance of evil and if there's ever been an evil in our country, and not just our country, this state, this county, it's been alcohol," he said.

Website: Brushy Mountain Group

Lisa Rutherford, the executive director of the Morgan County economic development board, said Langley's opinion did not surprise her. She said many people in Morgan County feel that way.

But, Rutherford said she wants residents to know the proposal is about more than just the alcohol.

"It's such a small part of what it would mean for Morgan County," she said.

Rutherford said the additional parts of the distillery plan, like the gift shop, museum, and horse trails could also financially benefit the community.

The Brushy Mountain Group [BMG], out of Chattanooga, is spearheading the distillery proposal. BMG partner Brian May said if the distillery were to be voted down it would strike a big blow to their plans.

"I can say from a business stand point, it becomes much more difficult, without the distilling," he said.

If the distillery were to be approved, May said, under Tennessee law, customers could buy up to five gallons of alcohol. He said the state already allows the Jack Daniels distillery to conduct itself the same way in the dry community of Moore County.

May added if the distillery measure were to pass, Morgan County residents could expect to see activity at the Brushy Mountain site by mid-2014.

BMG's proposal already has one supporter in the form of Morgan County resident Jocelyn Potter.

"Any opportunity to bring jobs to our county is a good opportunity," she said.

According to Rutherford, more than 1,000 people have already voted on the measure. May told 10News he expects the final results to be close.


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