Editorial: Forge distillery fight focuses on Parkway

Aug. 28, 2014 @ 12:19 PM

Pigeon Forge faces an interesting dilemma.

The city's planning commission voted Monday to recommend the city commission take measures to ensure no distilleries be operated on the Parkway.

It's something the city's been wrestling with for months.

This is the age-old battle of free enterprise versus the worry that allowing certain establishments might actually drive business away.

In the past, the planning commission has stated its concern that alcohol-related business on the front door of the community — the Parkway — might offend the sensibilities of some teetotaling travelers.

Of course, as with any good small-town drama, conspiracy theories are bandied about: Are city officials trying to protect already established or planned distilleries that aren't on the Parkway?

After all, the distillery at the Old Mill Square, and the one slated for the Island, are more than 200 feet from the Parkway. The larger developments where they are located don't have frontage on the highly traveled road.

Other arguments by potential Parkway distillery developers get more to the issue of why officials feel the road should be "protected" from distilleries.

For one, city residents have already voted in liquor by the drink, meaning a majority of voters approved the sale of mixed drinks and cocktails throughout the city. Why would a business that makes alcohol be so unwelcome now?

Also, they question officials giving the Parkway some sort of sacred cow status when many businesses have been milking the cow for years with no outrage expressed by the city.

Business officials and attorneys representing Doc Collier's Restaurant — a proposed Prohibition-style restaurant that would feature a brewery, winery and distillery — were asked about their choice of a 1930s theme rather than matching the theme already established in Pigeon Forge.

Which theme is that?

A drive down the Parkway, and a look at the variety of building designs and themes — a medieval castle, an upside-down neoclassical mansion, a building being scaled by a giant King Kong — suggest it's a completely logical question.

It's understandable that Pigeon Forge wants to preserve a family-friendly environment. But many of these distillery matters should have been settled earlier. We've known of the potential for an explosion of distilleries in the county for some time. Changing the rules once the game has started makes for headaches all around.