Ole Smoky's planned Pittman Center distillery close to elementary school

Owner says it will be hidden from view, closed to public and not selling retail product
May. 26, 2013 @ 09:22 PM

A review of applications for licenses to open in distilleries in Pittman Center and Gatlinburg revealed some new information about the proposals, including the fact that the site of a proposed Ole Smoky Moonshine distillery would be across from the entrance to Pittman Center School.

The application for the newest Ole Smoky distillery shows the planned site is 2470 East Parkway. The address for Pittman Center School is 2455 East Parkway, but the school is set back on a hill some distance from the road.

Changes to the state law did away with most distance regulations for distilleries, but Ole Smoky co-owner Joe Baker of Sevierville stressed that the planned distillery would also be set back from the road and he expects it will be screened behind some trees. It is not planned for public use or for the sale of his product, he said.

“That is strictly a manufacturing and bottling facility,” he said. “Our purpose for it is just a warehouse and manufacturing.’

Pittman Center Mayor Glenn Cardwell previously indicated he was aware of the planned facility, but that he didn’t believe the town wanted to allow the sale of liquor, including at a distillery.

While he had previously mentioned that it was possible they could sell liquor there, Baker said he was only referring to the fact that the new state law would allow it. He said the company had no long-term plans to have retail sales at that location.

Baker said it was designed as a distillery, and isn’t meant for public visitation or retail sales. Ole Smoky’s original location at 903 Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg was the state’s first legal moonshine distillery, and the whiskey has created a national stir since its opening. He said the demand has gotten so great that they needed to build a distillery separate from the original location.

The Mountain Press obtained copies of the applications for distillery licenses for that location as well as others planned in Sevier County, after filing a Freedom of Information request with the state.

Those papers show Ole Smoky corporation is primarily owned by Baker, who is listed as 70 percent owner, while Tony Breeden and John Cottongim each own 15 percent.

Gatlinburg Barrelhouse, which is affiliated with Ole Smoky, is located at 650 Parkway. The paperwork indicates that Baker’s wife, Jessi, is 80 percent owner of the corporation, while Cottongim’s wife, Cammy, owns 10 percent and Charles Edwards owns 10 percent.

Ole Smoky’s first real competitor in Gatlinburg, Sugarlands Distilling Company, is looking to open at 805 East Parkway, not far from Ole Smoky's site.

Its owner, Ned Vickers, was part of efforts to get changes made to the state law that eased restrictions on distilleries, including allowing for the sale of their product on site and abolishing most distance requirements established by cities. After Gatlinburg passed an ordinance setting a minimum distance between distilleries, Vickers said he believed the city was trying to prevent him from opening his business in town. He said Friday he didn’t want to add to his previous comments on the distillery.

The paperwork filed with the state indicates he owns 55 percent of the stock in Sugarlands Distilling, while Doug Swaggerty, director of operations for Swaggerty’s Farm Sausage, owns 40 percent and Ronald David McMahan Jr. owns 5 percent. Gregory Ralph Eidam II is listed as secretary for the LLC, but the paperwork indicates he doesn’t own stock in the business.

ABC officials have indicated it’s illegal for the ownership of a distillery to own a business that sells liquor by the drink. However, it is legal for them to lease property where liquor by the drink is sold.

In the paperwork for Sugarlands, Vickers indicates he owns or has interest in the property where Calhoun’s, Smoky Mountain Brewery and No Way Jose’s are located in Pigeon Forge, and where Crawdaddy’s is located in Gatlinburg. However, his application stipulates that as landlord of the property he receives only the fixed rental cost for the property and that the lease doesn’t call for the businesses to pay a percentage of profits or sales.

The only other application filed for Sevier County came from a married couple in Pigeon Forge (see separate story). Leslie and William Thomas indicated they own a HMM, LLC, with Leslie listed as the president and holder of 75 percent of the stock while William is secretary and owns the remaining 25 percent.

There have not been any applications yet for licenses to place distilleries in Sevierville or in unincorporated parts of the county, although Baker indicated he is still looking at adding another location somewhere the county.

“We certainly are considering options in other cities in Sevier County,” he said. “At this point we’ve not committed to any particular project but we are measuring the opportunities and we want to make sure whatever growth decisions we make are best for the brand and for the county.”

n jfarrell@themountainpress.com