Distillery tiff brews in Kennesaw
by Rachel Miller
July 20, 2013 12:13 AM | 7767 views | 15 15 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mark Allen says Kennesaw told him he would not have to install a sprinkler system, a main reason he said he was locating his whiskey distillery there. But now the county says he may have to install a system costing up to $30,000 — a sum that Allen says may be a deal breaker.<br>Staff/file
Mark Allen says Kennesaw told him he would not have to install a sprinkler system, a main reason he said he was locating his whiskey distillery there. But now the county says he may have to install a system costing up to $30,000 — a sum that Allen says may be a deal breaker.
KENNESAW — The owner of a startup whiskey distillery says he picked Kennesaw for the project because the city, unlike Marietta, didn’t require him to install an expensive sprinkler system.

After months of renovations, Mark Allen said distilling equipment has started to arrive at the building near downtown Kennesaw.

But the whole deal may have to be overturned like a barrel of murky moonshine.

As it turns out, the city didn’t have the authority to waive the sprinkler requirement.

Instead, that’s the exclusive purview of Cobb County Fire Marshal Jay Westbrook. And he’s not budging.

Westbrook said the historic building at 2950 Moon Station Road will require a sprinkler system that could cost up to $30,000.

Westbrook said he will not authorize one drop of craft whiskey to be produced by Lazy Guy Distillery until the upgrade is complete.

“This is a deal breaker,” Allen said.

The only way to save the project at this point may be for the city to ante up more incentives to cover the added costs.

Westbrook said the determination by Cobb County was based on the distilling process producing “flammable liquid” and storing the alcohol on site.

The city of Kennesaw uses the Cobb County Fire Department for its fire services.

“When it comes to safety issues, approval must be given by the (county) fire marshal, and the report came back that the portion of the property housing the distillery needs to be sprinkled,” said Bob Fox, the city’s director of economic development and one of the main negotiators of the original deal with Allen.

Business negotiations

By the time Lazy Guy Distillery opens its doors, Allen said he will have invested $200,000 and the extra fire safety expense is not something he is willing to fund.

Allen said he does not feel the city of Kennesaw was dishonest, but the sprinkler system cost was not in the business plan for the distillery.

If Allen has to purchase the equipment, with a majority of the cost going to run a waterline from the street to the building, then Lazy Guy Distillery will pack up and move out of state, he said.

“Every state bordering Georgia is much more tolerable,” Allen said about distillery regulations in neighboring states.

The code issue raised enough concern that Marietta’s economic development staff presented a report to City Council on June 26 about fire safety requirements for surrounding cities.

Beth Sessoms, Marietta’s director of economic development, said her department told Allen his business would be required to have sprinklers due to the concerns about flammable liquid.

Sessoms said she expected any city adhering to Cobb County regulations would require the same measures.

“That is a county decision not a city of Kennesaw decision,” Sessoms said.

City could further

subsidize project

Supporters in the community have given assurances the distillery will operate in Kennesaw, Allen said. He added that Fox said the city will do whatever it can to keep Lazy Guy Distillery.

On Wednesday, Fox updated the Kennesaw Development Authority on the distillery’s problem and asked if the board would be interested in further subsidizing the new business, covering as much as a third of the sprinkler system’s cost.

The Kennesaw Development Authority already committed $15,000 in assistance to Lazy Guy Distillery as part of the board’s recruitment for the establishment.

The funding, which was designated for property improvements, will not be released until the distillery obtains the needed business licenses.

The Kennesaw Development Authority has $130,000 in its operating account, with $40,000 available for business development, according to the board’s budget report for the period ending June 30.

Board member Ken Williams, who is in his first term with the board and works at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, said the business and property owners did not make an official request with the Kennesaw Development Authority and should ask in person at the next meeting Aug. 21.

Williams said he is willing to have the company explain their needs, but would “like to hear something about undue hardship.”

Allen said he would be glad to address the Kennesaw Development Authority, and is just waiting for a request from the board to attend its next meeting.

Fox reminded the board that Lazy Guy Distillery is already sparking media attention, and is a unique type of manufacturing business that will draw tourism to the city.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Clear Today
July 22, 2013
Building sprinkler systems are required and regulated by the State of Georgia following the International Building Code and National Fire Protection Association. It is the owner's and owners designer's responsibility to follow these codes.

Someone who has already invested $200,000 is not going to cut an run over an additional $30,000. They will have the same issue in other states.
They can do it
July 22, 2013
Kennesaw can totally still wave the sprinkler permit. It's a piece of paper, right? Take hold of it, lift it up in the air, move arm around, viola. Teh sprinkelr purmit done been waved.

Spelling aside, Kennesaw just has better liars that Marietta. Kennesaw apparently knows they can promise the sky as long as the sky turns out to be beyond their control.

"Hey we totally would have delivered the sky to you if so and so and such and such County State Feds NSA NRA such as the Iraq had allowed us to. It's not our fault we didn't deliver. It is because more U.S. Americans need maps."

I would guesstimate that this sprinkler system will likely cost Mr Allen far less in the long run than a triple option lease and leaking roof with Marietta Goldstein might have cost him.

Just ask around on the Marietta square if you want to know whether you should open a business on the Marietta square. There are basically three landlords. Talk to their tenants. If you get the same story from a few of them, the tenants are probably scared to talk to you, and that is all you need to know!
July 21, 2013
A fire suppression system just makes sense. What kinda clown brews liquor without a sprinkler system? Go ahead and move outta state, they require common sense in the neighboring states as well unless you move to a very rural area that doesn't care. Either way stop gripping...it's your poor planning for not knowing the laws not ours. I for one don't want to subsidize your profits. I know your buisness has lazy in the name but come on!
You're not smart
July 25, 2013
Add water to an alcohol fire and see what happens... It'll spread, if anything I wouldn't want a sprinkler system. They are going to make it worse if a fire does in fact break out. But good job on the comment guy. You're a genius
Joe Bozeman
July 21, 2013
If the City of Kennesaw funds this sprinkler system, I promise there is going to be **** to pay. I am sick of seeing headlines in the media because of idiotic decisions made in my hometown. I have delt wit Jay Westbrook many times in the past. Jay is a no nonsense professional and should have been brought into this thing from the beginning, he is a hard but fair and reasonable man. Something could have been worked out that would have benifited all involved.
Mike In Smyrna
July 21, 2013
A movie in the making – The Great Kennesaw Fire. The whiskey fire that burned historic Kennesaw to the ground. It will debut at the Stand. The sequence – The Lawsuits of The Great Kennesaw Fire.
Just Wait
July 20, 2013
It seems that every new business that opens in Georgia does so with the expectation that government will foot the bill for most of their cost and then discount their taxes. Is this the kind of growth we need?
Kenn Govt Joke
July 20, 2013
Yet another article in the MDJ about ineptness and bumbling in Kennesaw. Haven't the citizens gotten tired of their hapless Mayor yet?
Eileen Alberstadt
July 22, 2013
I have gotten tired of him over a year ago now. He has changed since his re-election. He has cronie(s) to follow whom he will soon throw under the bus. Wake up Kennesaw residents! Open your mouths. Tell us the voters in Kennesaw what you feel!
Mike Smith503
July 20, 2013
Only Kennesaw would promote a moonshine business. Nice.
Debra W
July 20, 2013
Validated proof that Bob Fox, Economic Development Dir. for the City Kennesaw didn't properly perform his job and do the necessary research before making promises he can't fulfill. The decision regarding the requirement for a sprinkler system is a Fire Marshall decision not an Economic Development Dir. decision. Is this a disregard for the Fire Code simply to grasp a business and fool a business owner. Dishonesty always finds its way to the surface. Does Mr. Fox truly have the city's best interest at heart if he ignores such a simple code and puts the Historic Home, the neighbors, and the business owner in danger of a major fire or explosion! I dare say he has overstepped his boundaries in negotiations. Marietta told the business owner he was required to have a sprinkler system and Mr. Fox was very aware of why the business owner was choosing us - it supports Mr. Fox's disregard for regulations and safety simply to grab a business. The owner didn't ask Mr. Fox for money from the KDA, Mr. Fox asked because he realized he had made a grave error that would possibly cost the city a business or the City having to anti up the funds. Mr. Allen is also partly responsible because he knew the sprinkler system was a requirement via negotiations with Marietta. Mr. Allen also needs to understand, the KDA doesn't issue invitations to their meetings to request funds, if you are going to request their funds then you asks to be put on the Agenda. In addition, from the business prior being a service business, and the distillery a manufacturing, why was it not required to go before the Planning and Zoning Commission? There are individuals who have extensive experience and a high levels of expertise for matters such as this. Mr. Fox is in Economic Development whose job it is to court businesses, who in the City holds the expertise in Code Requirements and were they involved in Mr. Fox's decision to make this 'errored' deal?
July 20, 2013
If you don't sprinkler it, no insurance company in it's right mind will insure it. Go ahead and protect your investment - don't cut corners.
July 21, 2013
I feel that government should stay out of making business look at underground atlanta it made it the 1st time when politicians did not grab it then they tried to rebirth it and it failed.The country has made private concerns with out our voted in guys playing with our $$$$$$$$$$$$
Eileen Alberstadt
July 22, 2013
Well Said!
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