One craft distillery rushing to take advantage of likely law change

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SWISHER, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- One craft distillery in eastern Iowa is wasting no time to take advantage of a likely change in one state liquor law.

Workers begin remodeling the bar area at the Cedar Ridge Distillery and winery near Swisher on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The changes are being made to take advantage of liquor by the drink for small distilleries. (Dave Franzman/KCRG-TV9)

Monday night, the Iowa Senate joined the Iowa House in passing a bill to approve liquor by the drink at small craft distilleries in the state. The bill is now on the way to Governor Branstad who is expected to sign it.

And for the Cedar Ridge Distillery and winery near Swisher, that meant getting ready now enjoy the change.

In the busy summer months, as many as 1,200 visitors a week stop at the craft distillery. But visitors now won't find the bar that they remember.

Just as soon as the bill passed the senate, owner Jeff Quint had a construction crew on standby to begin work.

Under current Iowa law, visitors to the distillery can get tiny samples of whiskeys and bourbons and even buy a bottle to take home. But they couldn't buy anything by the drink on site.

Quint said that put his distillery at a disadvantage compared to craft breweries for beer and wineries. So, he's ready for a level playing field to encourage tourism.

"Visitors come in from surrounding states and they're used to going to a distillery and having a cocktail made from those spirits so really we just caught up with the states around us," Quint said.

Although the law, assuming the governor signs it, won't change until July 1st, Quint wanted to get ready now before the busy season.

So he brought in contractors for a $100,000 bar makeover to create a serving area for individual drinks.

He says he's going to add staff to handle the expected new business and increase production.

And he wouldn't be surprised to see the change prompt new distilleries to start up in Iowa.

"There's a dozen or so craft distilleries in Iowa now. I know of at least two more coming on line in the next couple of month so it'll have a solid impact for the state," he said.