Burnt Chimney resident Laura Turner is moving forward with preparations to open a distillery and tasting room in Westlake later this year despite an uncertain future. The Franklin County Board of Supervisors are set to give a deciding vote on the business next week after deadlocking in February.
The vote tied 3-3-1 on Feb. 16 with Blue Ridge District representative Tim Tatum absent. The vote was to modify zoning on the property to allow for a distillery and tasting room. Supervisors later agreed to delay the vote until their next meeting on March 16.
Turner admitted she was surprised by the supervisors who voted against her business, including Boone District representative Ronnie Thompson, who was one of the more vocal critics. He said the store had the potential to be detrimental to the county and said it was too similar to a bar.
“I was shocked,” Turner said of the vote.
While alcohol will be served at the business, which Turner has named Roosters Rise-n-Shine Distillery, she said it is different from a bar. One of the main differences is that a customer is allowed only 3 ounces of alcohol per visit.
There are multiple restaurants with bars that are near her Westlake location that have no limits on the amount of alcohol they can serve, Turner said. Her business also has to follow strict Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control guidelines.
Turner said the idea for her distillery and tasting room would be to give customers the opportunity to taste the moonshine she sells before buying it. She expects to have several varieties of flavored moonshine. The flavors she is considering include banana, watermelon and peach. Those varieties will also change throughout the year, she said.
The process in finding a good flavor can be challenging, Turner said. While some things mix together well, others do not. A recent attempt at a peppermint moonshine did not go well. “It was awful,” she admitted.
The idea for the business had been something Turner had discussed with her father for a few years. She said it wasn’t until she visited Davis Valley Distillery in Rural Retreat that the idea began to take shape.
Turner formed a partnership with the distillery to provide the moonshine. She would then take that moonshine and add her own flavors to sell at the Westlake tasting room.
Turner considered locations in Roanoke, Rocky Mount and other spaces around Smith Mountain Lake before finding the one in Westlake. She began setting up the business in January with plans to open this spring.
In the months since moving into the location, Turner said she invested time and money into the space painting, decorating, purchasing a sign, obtaining permits in addition to paying monthly rent. She said she is hopeful for a positive outcome at next month’s meeting.