CUMMING, Iowa — Each and every day, people pass through Mississippi River Distilling Co. in LeClaire and say they are disappointed that they can't buy a glass of the spirits that are made there.
That's about to change, thanks to new state regulations signed into law Tuesday.
At a public ceremony held at Iowa Distilling Co. in Cumming, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law a package of changes to the state’s alcohol regulations, including a provision that allows small distilleries, including Iowa Distilling Co. and Mississippi River Distilling Co., to sell individual servings of their spirits on-site.
The law goes into effect July 1.
The law is welcome news across the state for small distilleries that have sought the changes for five years. They say the new law provides equity by allowing small distilleries the same freedom that small breweries and wineries have.
“It’s such a customer expectation. When you go into a brewery, when you go into a winery, you expect that you can have a glass. And in a distillery, you couldn’t,” said Garrett Burchett, who co-owns Mississippi River Distilling with his brother Ryan. Both attended Tuesday’s bill-signing event. “It just, it makes sense.”
Distilleries across the state began making renovation plans as soon as the changes were approved by state lawmakers in mid-April. Many distillery owners, like the Burchetts, attended Tuesday’s bill-signing.
Garrett Burchett said Mississippi River Distilling plans to overhaul its tasting room to create an area where people can buy individual servings of its whiskeys, vodkas and other spirits. He said it will include a bar, which was being constructed Tuesday as the new law was being approved, seating and a patio that overlooks the Mississippi River.
Jeff Quint, owner of Cedar Ridge Distillery in Swisher, said his distillery’s tasting bar has been torn out and replaced.
Quint and other distillery owners said the law provides equity not only with breweries and wineries, but with distilleries in neighboring states that already permit the on-site sale of individual servings of spirits.
“We’re excited about it. It feels good to kind of level the playing field with — some people say with wineries and beer, but I say more importantly with the distilleries in the states surrounding us,” Quint said. “They’ve had this right, and now we have it as well.”
State Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, who co-sponsored the legislation that became law Tuesday, said it will help small distilleries to expand.
"It will allow our businesses across Iowa to grow, hire more employees and sell their product not only in Iowa, but all across the country," Smith said in a statement. "This is a great bill for Iowa's economic development and small businesses."
Branstad praised the state Alcoholic Beverages Division and economic development board for working together prior to the legislative session to come up with a proposal on an issue that has been festering for years.
In previous years, similar proposals were opposed by the state’s beer wholesalers.
“They did a great job of working together, looking at this from a perspective of controlling alcohol in a way that still protects public safety but also grows the economy and provides job opportunities in distilleries and breweries and wineries across the state of Iowa,” Branstad said. “I’m really excited to see it happen.”
So are the distilleries.
“Five years’ effort and we got it behind us, and I’m looking forward to not hanging out at the Capitol anymore,” Quint said.