Elected leaders in Green Mountain Falls appear supportive of plans for a historic whiskey distillery in the main core of town that uses donkeys as part of the production process, and as an added tourist attraction.
However, due to some significant legal hurdles, the Black Bear Distillery, owned by Victor Matthews, is running against the clock if it plans to open by this summer. Once again, the subject of working donkeys, and ending the town’s prohibition against these burros, are posing major obstacles.
Last week, the GMF trustees, following another detailed discussion on the planned whiskey distillery, surprisingly decided to throw the proposal back into the laps of the planning commission. This occurred at the recommendation of GMF Attorney Matt Krob, who indicated that the commission needs to make a more defined recommendation regarding a special use permit for the new business “We (the board of trustees) need to punt it back,” said Krob.
He said the main missing part of the equation is whether the commission approves of the distillery as a legal business use. In their most recent verdict on the project, the commission forwarded the distillery plans onto the trustees without any solid recommendation.
The trustees and mayor, though, were highly supportive of the distillery during an April 7 meeting. Moreover, they lauded the entrepreneurial vision of Matthews, who former ran the five-star Black Bear restaurant for many years. “It is exciting for our community,” said Mayor Lorrie Worthey, in describing the new distillery.
“This will be awesome,” said Matthews, who remained upbeat about his plans, despite the many obstacles he has encountered. “I have received calls from Scotland.”
He described the craft distillery, which will produce home-made Colorado whiskey, as extremely unique, with few operations in the world that would rival this particular set-up. The distillery would produce Irish-style unpeated, single malt, 90-proof whiskey from the farm stage to the final glass and include several historic production steps, such as using rescue donkeys to rotate the wheel of an old stone mill. According to Matthews, the donkeys would be used to help grind the grain and would only be on site for several hours a day, four days a week. They would not stay at the distillery property overnight.
“They will be the mascots of the distillery,” said Matthews. “I think it is going to be an attraction.”
But Krob waved a big yellow flag due to the town’s prohibition against donkeys. “You can’t have donkeys in town,” said Krob. “It is like opening a can of worms.”
That said, the attorney believes the best compromise, if the trustees support the business, is to approve the distillery’s plans as a special use permit. Otherwise, he said they could change the GMF anti-donkey law, but that would take several months to accomplish and may become something the trustees don’t want to do.