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Council OKs craft distilleries in commercial areas

The Medford City Council voted Thursday evening to allow boutique distillers to set up shop in commercial areas.

Seven councilors approved the change to Medford city code allowing craft alcohol production areas zoned commercial with permits, and areas zoned industrial with conditions limiting the business' size, with councilor Clay Bearnson abstaining to avoid a conflict of interest as an Oregon Liquor Control Commission licensee.

The new ordinance, broadening language from "Brewery Public House" to the wider "Craft Alcohol Production," will limit businesses' production areas to 5,000 square feet and can produce no more than 50,000 gallons annually, according to Carla Paladino with the Medford Planning Department.

"We want to keep them small," Paladino said.

The square footage limit stemmed from a recent tour of craft distiller Immortal Spirits' 2,400-square-foot production facility in Phoenix, which distillery staff described as ample space for their operation, according to Paladino. Area breweries have footprints near that limit. BricktownE has 4,700 square feet, and Walkabout Brewing Company has a footprint of 4,000 square feet, according to Paladino's presentation to the council.

Boutique distillers will be required to have a full on-premises sales presence, and they must sell a minimum five menu items and sell food for a minimum of five hours daily. Distillers will be allowed to sell liquor, wine and other companies' beers.

Agricultural operations, such as growing grapes, hops or grains on the premises, will be prohibited, and grain silos will be allowed.

The Medford Planning Commission voted to initiate the amendment March 24, at the request of entrepreneurs behind the proposed Mythical Spirits Distillery, who sought to produce whiskey and other specialty spirits in a 2,500-square-foot warehouse at 1000 S. Central Ave. No one commented at Thursday night's meeting or at a recent planning commission meeting.

 — Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.