By Beverly Harris-Walker
May 12 marked the ground breaking for Georgia Distilling Company, Inc.'s facility at 540 West Third Street in Jackson.
The distillery building will be 10,000 square feet and display the vat through a lit picture window that can be viewed from the road by passers by, according to the three business partners launching the venture.
The three partners -- Dan Rivers, Bill Mauldin and Shawn Hall -- hope to open the distillery to tourists and create space to park tour buses.
The trio gained the approval of the Jackson City Council, in a 3-0 vote on April 13, for a special use exception that cleared the way for the project.
"Our plan is to build a nice focal point for our community," said Mauldin. "With our proximity to the interstate, I feel it will draw interested visitors as well as generate revenue for other businesses in Butts County."
Rivers said that once the distillery is up and running, it will produce up to 20,000 gallons of spirits per year.
"We will remain true to the small-town, country feel," said Rivers. "There will be a porch with chairs, and a gift shop located in the lobby of the building."
City of Jackson Council Member Harold "Doc" McMichael told those in attendance at the ground-breaking ceremony that he was proud to have a new business opening in difficult economic times. He said that after hearing statements of those in approval and those who opposed the distillery, he felt the addition would prove to be an asset to the community.
Butts County Commissioner Keith Douglas made a brief statement on behalf of the Board of Commissioners. He said commissioners are happy to have a new business, and look forward to more new businesses opening in Butts County.
"I am happy about the jobs and the revenue this business will bring to our community," said Melinda Atha, executive director of the Butts County Chamber of Commerce. "I hope that we will be like Americus (the location of 13th Colony Distilleries) and have up to 500 visitors a week. I support you fully."
Georgia Distilling Company plans to begin production in late December, or early in 2011, according to Rivers. The company will employ approximately 10 people.
"Our dreams are finally being realized," Hall said. "This idea began as a conversation after a Masonic Lodge meeting and is finally taking shape today."