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Article posted: 2/9/2013 8:00 AM

Distillery proposal suits the taste of Lake Zurich officials

Lake Zurich business would make hard liquor, not distribute it

By Mick Zawislak

A proposal to open a craft distillery on Lake Zurich's Main Street appears to suit the tastes of village officials.

Copper Fiddle Distillery would produce primarily whiskeys but also gins and other specialty liquors, and offer tours and tastings from a 2,100-square-foot storefront at 532 W. Route 22.

"I think it could be a very interesting thing," Mayor Suzanne Branding said.

The venture being pitched by Jose L. Hernandez and Fred Robinson, both of Hawthorn Woods, would be the ninth in Illinois and second in Lake County licensed under a relatively new state law. The other is the North Shore Distillery in Lake Bluff.

Craft distilleries are a relatively new industry that have seen a resurgence in the past five years or so, Hernandez said during a "courtesy review" at a recent village board meeting.

While microbrewing has exploded in the last 30 years, craft distilling is in its infancy, he said. The distillery would draw visitors and benefit the village and other businesses.

"It's a destination location as far as a business goes," he said.

State law limits the production of distilled spirits to 15,000 gallons per year and only what is produced on site can be sold there. Store owners would have to use a distributor to sell to retail outlets.

"We're not in any way a bar and we're not really a liquor store. We're a producer," he said.

Ingredients including corn, barley, rye, yeast and purified water are the same as those used in a bakery, Hernandez told village officials.

"We're just producing something that's quite a bit different," he said.

Because distilleries are not accounted for in any village code or license, the plan would require a change to the business zoning classification, a new category of liquor license and a special use permit.

But officials appear eager to break the seal on a new business they think would draw attention.

"These are the kind of unique things that would help separate us from some other communities that don't have these things and are looking for them," Trustee Tom Poynton said. "I'm 100 proof for this."

The positive response means the proposal will go to the village's plan commission for a public hearing before returning to the village board of official action.

"It's a great idea," Branding said. "If something like this business were successful it could help draw something else."

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