MATTHEWS – Town commissioners not only are allowing distilleries less than 3,000 square feet as a permitted use in neighborhood business districts, but they also approved rezoning Sept. 13 to allow Oaklore Distilling to open a microdistillery at 11136 Monroe Road. 

Owner Matt Simpkins said during the August public hearing that his microdistillery will create a variety of spirits, including moonshine, whiskey, vodka, gin and rum. It will have a small bottling shop where customers can try before they buy.

The Matthews Planning Board had reservations about Oaklore Distilling’s proposal. Members recommended town commissioners deny the company’s rezoning request. 

Town Senior Planner Rob Will said the planning board’s concerns involved the location of the business, parking, and safety of the ingress and egress from Monroe Road. 

Nick Tosco, an attorney representing the applicant, said the team added a condition that creates a parking formula for the site after hearing from town staff. The parking would increase to match any increase to the retail or tasting area as well as the number of employees. 

Mayor John Higdon had some initial concerns about the potential of an odor coming from the microdistillery, but he realized it wouldn’t be an issue with an operation that size. 

“I personally would have reservations opening a business of your type in that location just because it’s a little bit difficult to access, but you guys are the ones that are putting up the funds and willing to give it a go,” Higdon said Sept. 13. “Who am I to stand in your way?”

Commissioner Jeff Miller said he didn’t buy into the notion that the business would increase traffic on Monroe Road. He pointed to other businesses operating in that location. He also mentioned a right turn lane leading into the spot. 

“I support this request wholeheartedly, and it’s the third business during my tenure that will make a try there,” Miller said. “I think they’ll be the most successful.”

Simpkins was grateful for the approval. 

“We want to be partners with Matthews,” Simpkins told commissioners. “We’re Matthews’ guys. We’re excited about being here. This is home and we can’t wait to see what we can do.”

While the vote to approve rezoning for Oaklore Distilling was unanimous, Larry Whitley was the only commissioner to vote against the measure that would allow smaller distilleries in neighborhood business districts. It also reduced the distance between a distillery and dwellings from 500 to 50 feet. 

The planning board called for staff to take a more comprehensive look at brewpubs, microbreweries and distilleries in the town’s development ordinances. 

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