Lake Zurich distillery plan affected by federal shutdown

Jose Hernandez says his plan to open a small distillery later this year in Lake Zurich may be thrown off by the federal government shutdown.

Hernandez and golf professional Fred Robinson, both of Hawthorn Woods, intend to open Copper Fiddle Distillery in a 2,100-square-foot storefront on Route 22, just east of Rand Road. Copper Fiddle is expected to become the 11th or so small-scale distillery in Illinois.

But Copper Fiddle is in a holding pattern in seeking approval for its labels from the U.S. Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau due to the government shutdown that started Oct. 8.

Hernandez said it's frustrating how the political stalemate over the shutdown can affect small-business owners and local economies.

“This small example is repeating itself all over the country in all kinds of businesses,” he said Thursday.

Copper Fiddle recently cleared a hurdle with the treasury department's bureau by receiving a permit for a distilled spirits plant for beverages that would allow the business to launch. Hernandez said Copper Fiddle moved to the final leg, which is the federal agency's labeling and advertising of distilled spirits process.

Federal officials need to approve images of Copper Fiddle's product labels. Mandatory labeling requirements include proof and percentage of alcohol by volume, while prohibitions include statements disparaging a competitor's product.

Hernandez said Copper Fiddle was halfway through the 38-day effort when it was halted by the shutdown. The business can't proceed to the last step of obtaining an Illinois craft distillery license until federal officials green-light the labels.

“It's nail-biting time,” said Hernandez, who believes the plan to open in late December may wind up pushed to February.

Lake Zurich village board trustees recently granted a liquor license to Copper Fiddle. Hernandez said renovation work is being done on the building, and fermenting equipment has been delivered.

Copper Fiddle plans to offer a young, barrel-aged whiskey, clear regular gin and barrel-aged gin. Also expected are limited releases of bourbon, rye and limoncello, a lemon liqueur rooted in Amalfi, Italy.

Robinson, Hernandez, the men's wives and some part-time employees are projected to be the workforce at Copper Fiddle when it opens. Copper Fiddle would join North Shore Distillery on North Herky Drive near Lake Bluff as the second such operation in Lake County. Copper Fiddle would host tastings and sell a limited amount of merchandise. Spirits initially would be distributed to bars, restaurants and liquor stores in the Lake Zurich and Barrington areas.

Twitter: @DHBobSusnjara

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Fred Robinson, left, and Jose Hernandez at the building on Route 22 where they plan to open Copper Fiddle Distillery in Lake Zurich. Courtesy of Fred Robinson
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