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Minneapolis men look to open distillery

The land within the lines, 599 County Road VV, Somerset, is parcel Johnson, Davell and Cameron are hoping to get rezoned from Highway Commercial to Industrial in order to run their distillery. (Imagery ©2013 DigitalGlobe, USDA Farm Service Agency, Map data ©2013 Google)

A public hearing to discuss the rezoning of a land parcel at 599 County Road VV in Somerset will precede the Thursday, Oct. 3, Somerset Village Board meeting, along with an application for a conditional use permit to operate a distillery in the building on that land.

The application was submitted by Minneapolis residents Pat Johnson, Bryan Dalvell and Eric Cameron who are looking to convert the property into a distillery to make, bottle and sell alcohol.

“Basically, it boils down to me and a couple of my buddies wanting to start up our own brewery,” said Johnson, who, along with Dalvell and Cameron, all spent time as bartenders in the past. “We picked the spot in Somerset because the building on the property is perfect for what we need and the laws are better for brewing once you go over the border into Wisconsin.”

The property at 599 County Road VV is owned by the Kramer Family Limited Partnership and is currently classified as Highway Commercial (C2). In order for Johnson and his friends to operate their distillery, the land needs to be rezoned as Industrial (I1) and they will need to obtain a conditional use permit as well.

“We need it rezoned because we are planning on dealing with bulk alcohol, as well as bottling the alcohol on the site,” Johnson said. “Highway Commercial is good for retail, but it wouldn’t allow us to operate the distillery the way we need to to be profitable.”

To begin with, the distillery, tentatively named River’s Edge Distillery, would sell two of its own products, including a vodka and a gin. Later on, Johnson plans on producing a variety of whiskeys and rums.

“My first impression of what I’m hearing is that we shouldn’t have any problem getting the land rezoned,” Johnson said. “At the Oct. 3, meeting, we will tell our story to the zoning committee and explain what it is we want to do. Then the zoning committee will make a recommendation to the Village Board and then the board will decide what they want to do at the Oct. 15, meeting.”

Johnson has already applied for a license to sell and distribute alcohol with the state and federal governments, which should give the group a head start on the whole process if they should get the land rezoned in the near future.

“We are hoping that we can have our product out around Christmas, but this process can take a couple of months since some of the alcohol laws date back a long ways,” Johnson said.

After the public hearing the board will hold its regular meeting to discuss the rezoning and the application for a conditional use permit. According to Johnson, the board will make its decision at its Oct. 15, meeting.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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