Plans for the construction of a massive distillery operation in Murfreesboro named Sazerac made headlines last year, and the project was approved by the City Council with a targeted opening date of “early 2020.”
But more than one year after the distillery was approved, it appears very little has happened to the property in terms of roads being built or building permits being issued. A company spokeswoman did not give an exact opening date when contacted by the Murfreesboro Post.
The City Council in April 2018 approved the annexation and zoning of approximately 55 acres along Asbury Road for the Sazerac Distillery. Sazerac said it anticipated opening the distillery by early 2020.
The plans caused residents of surrounding neighborhoods to speak out with concerns ranging from traffic impact to whiskey fungus, a black fungus that grows when ethanol is released into the atmosphere.
The Post emailed several questions about the project to Amy Preske, public relations manager for Sazerac Co.
Q: What is the projected opening date for operations, and for public tours? Where is the construction process at this time? What are some amenities visitors can expect when visiting? Will there be tasting tours?
A: We are in the middle of the planning and designing stages of our new distillery. Just like with our new whiskey, quality is top priority and we are not going to rush the new distillery just to meet a date. We are working alongside an architect and contractor to bring our vision to life. We do plan to have the distillery open for visitors once we have our production up and going.
Q: I'm looking for a quote on how this will be an enhancement for the city (in terms of investment or something new for tourism/entertainment).
A: We are looking forward to being a part of the Murfreesboro & Middle TN community including supporting MTSU’s fermentation department when possible. Most recently we supplied Dr. Tony Johnston, Director of Fermentation, grains for MTSU students to perform an experiment and further their learning. Also, we are currently sourcing all of our corn from Murfreesboro’s Batey Farms.
Sazerac’s development hinges on a complicated series of access roads being built throughout the northwest and western portions of the city, some of which fits into the city’s long-term plans to connect Cherry Lane near Richard Siegel Soccer Complex and Memorial Boulevard to a connecter road that runs all the way west to Interstate 24. The city plans to build interchanges on Interstates 24 and 840 which would be part of this route.
The I-24 connection is part of the city’s 2040 Major Transportation Plan, but the city has not started a study process with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, said Mike Browning, the city’s public information director. The I-840 interchange is undergoing design review and has received state and federal approval, he said.
Sazerac agreed to pay up to $1.25 million in costs for connector roads, media reports from last year show. Last June, the city received $5.58 million in State Industrial Access (SIA) funding for the Sazerac Distillery Development Public Road. The funds will reimburse the city on eligible expenses for construction of an access road from Florence Road to the Sazerac site driveway.
The Post emailed questions to Donald Anthony, Murfreesboro’s planning director, who consulted with Sam Huddleston, executive director of the city’s Development Services Division.
Q: Where is the city at in regards to build out of the Sazerac connector roads and any other infrastructure? Where are they in terms of pulling their building permits?
A: We have not received a site plan application for this project. Thus, no building permits have been requested or issued. The City continues to work with TDOT on planning for the roadway. No date for start of construction has been determined yet. Not very exciting news, I know — but the process is taking some time to work itself out on this one.
Q: Is there a reason the roadway has not started? I seem to recall it was a high priority so the plant could open in early 2020.
A: I don’t know of any reason other than it is still in the planning stages.
A representative for TDOT did not respond to a request for information.
If the distillery is indeed built, information the company provided last year during the approval process indicates it would pay more than $1 million annually in personal and real property taxes. The distillery estimated it will employ 20-25 workers with an average hourly salary of $20.40.
Sazerac said its plans included a distillery with a visitors center for tourists, parking, a bottling building and four warehouses to store barrels of distilled alcohol. The company said that it plans to cluster many of the buildings and leave some of the property undeveloped.
Sazerac is one of America’s oldest family owned, privately-held distillers with operations in eight states, according to documents filed with the city. It has offices in Louisville, New Orleans, Chicago and Washington, DC.