OCEAN CITY – Seacrets continues to sail through the hurdles of adding a distillery to its grand plan as the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the approval of a Conditional Use this week to allow the operation on 49th Street
On Tuesday evening, the Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing to consider granting a Conditional Use permit in the Local Commercial District that allows Seacrets to erect a new distillery on 49th Street just east of Morley Hall where an empty parking lot sits now.
Seacrets President Leighton Moore presented the design of the distillery on Tuesday. An existing three story apartment building, consisting of six condos, will be razed to make room for the distillery.
The distillery will be two stories with the distilling operation taking place on the first floor including a mashing tank, five fermentation tanks, stills and a bottling line. With the mashing and fermentation tanks reaching 20 feet tall, a mezzanine will serve as the second floor where a sampling bar and merchandise will be located.
The exterior esthetics of the building will be made of brick, exposed steel and the face of the building consisting of as much glass the Fire Marshal will allow for the public to view the operation from the outside.
According to Moore, the operation will be limited to producing 100,000 gallons of liquor per year with 15,500 gallons being sold out of Seacrets. The remainder will be distributed regionally and hopefully nationally.
Moore, who has toured numerous distilleries throughout the country, testified the entire operation will occur indoors.
“The building is sealed,” Moore said. “I have chosen not to use open vat fermentation, which is an anomaly in the business … they are not completely closed because the fermentation process requires oxidation but it is certainly almost closed … from then on it is completely sealed in the stills.”
Currently, Seacrets employs 550 people, and the distillery will add another 25 to 30 full-time jobs between the operation and giving tours. The plan is to have the distillery open 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
The plans include a potential future expansion by adding a third and fourth floor to the building.
“In the future, I hope to be able to add a third floor with a kitchen, additional restrooms and an area where people will be able to enter Morley Hall. Morley Hall was designed structurally to have a large convention center on top of it,” Moore said. “The fourth floor would be used as a state-of-the-art recording studio, so I can get better bands and negotiate deals where they would get very good recordings and I would get a lower price for them to play in Morley Hall.”
Testimony covered all of the typical topics prior to granting a Conditional Use permit, such as ample parking, sufficient loading dock, curb cuts and traffic control. As well as, neighboring properties will not be impeded by light, noise, odor, smoke, dust, etc.
“You have always been mindful of your neighbors to the south. We are being mindful by emphasizing the use within the Seacrets area. What we are looking at is a use that is visible and active from 49th St. but it is not intrusive to the south of the property,” said Moore’s legal counsel Joseph Moore. “We are trying to expand our tourist attraction and the experience. The distillery will focus more on being a year-round facility with year-round employment.”
The public hearing was closed without public testimony given.
“I am a little surprised that no one showed up to say something in favor or against. I think that is a testament to how they run their business. They are good to their neighbors and are cognizant of the people around them. This is a welcoming addition to his grand plan there,” commission member Chris Shanahan said.
Commission member Lauren Taylor was in favor of how attractive the building will turn out.
“If there is an appropriate place in Ocean City for this to be, that’s it,” she said.
Commission member Peck Miller agreed with his colleagues.
“It is a well thought out plan and a great addition to Ocean City. My only concerns were of the odors and noise nuisance but Mr. Moore has taken care of that,” he said.
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to forward a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council to approve the Conditional Use permit request for Seacrets to build its distillery. The site plan will return to the commission for approval at a future date.
In March, a bill sailed through the House and Senate establishing a Class 9 craft distillery license in Worcester, creating opportunities for those who obtain the license to distill spirits on their licensed premises and market them under their own label. While the new craft distillery license on the surface would be open to any business in Worcester that sought it, it is essentially tailored to Seacrets.
Last year, Seacrets launched its new line of craft distilled spirits including a white rum, spiced rum, vodka and gin under its own label. This week two new products — blood orange vodka and coconut rum — were lauched.