A proposal to build a craft distillery inside the old Minden Mill got its first official endorsement on Tuesday when Douglas County Planning commissioners approved revising county code.
Christopher Bently addressed planning commissioners as they took up the revisions that will allow the distillery to move forward.
“My plan was to restore the creamery and the granary silo,” he said. “We came up with a plan that is both viable and fun. This is part of a larger effort to make Carson Valley a hub for tourism.”
Planning commissioner Don Miner welcomed Bently back to Carson Valley.
“I look forward to your being successful in your ventures,” he said.
Planning commissioner Kevin Servatius questioned East Fork Fire Marshal Steve Eisele about the safety of operating a distillery along Highway 395.
Eisele said approval of the distillery would be conducted under the Uniform Fire Code, which was adopted by Douglas County. He also acknowledged that there was the potential for damage whenever a volatile material was enclosed in a vessel. He pointed out there were several businesses with similar operations in the county.
Mark Little, principal with Eight Inc., of San Francisco, presented conceptual designs for the project to an enthusiastic Minden Town Board on Jan. 8.
He said much of the structure “was in fantastic shape. We want to make sure we respect that.”
He emphasized that the plans presented to the board were conceptual.
Town board members unanimously praised the project.
“This is nothing but a benefit for the town,” said board member John Stephans. “We’re excited to bring vitality back to the town.”
Vice chair Roxanne Stangle asked, “What’s not to love?”
“You see it in small towns where historic buildings just sit there. This project is bringing excitement to our whole community, not just Minden,” she said.
Chairman Matt Bernard said the project would restore vitality to an area “that has been just sitting there.”
Town engineer Bruce Scott said the project goes beyond preservation to sustainability.
“What they’re bringing about is much better than preservation,” Scott said. “They are using the (Bently) ranch and other resources in the Valley for sustainability at a much higher level.”
Under the proposed rules, only distilleries of less than 10,000 square feet would be allowed in the neighborhood commercial zoning. Larger distilleries may be sited in general and tourist commercial, and light or service industrial districts, and must include a commercial use if it’s in a commercial zone.
Douglas County commissioners are scheduled to discuss the change in February. Once in place, it will allow the county to process applications under a new Nevada law.
Before the law passed in 2013, Nevada permitted distilleries to produce spirits under a federal license, but the distillery had to sell its product through a distributor, and therefore could not serve or sell it directly to consumers.
Nevada has a three-tier system of regulating alcohol producers that dates back to Prohibition. The system is designed to prevent producers from having a financial interest in retailers.
The new law allows craft distilleries to sell their products while preserving the system. Under the law, a craft distillery may sell up to two 750-milliliter bottles per person per month. Samples of no more than 2 ounces per person per day may be served by the distillery. Total in-state production is limited to 10,000 cases at all craft distilleries operated by a single owner.
R-C News Editor Sheila Gardner contributed to this story.