Conceptual plans for a proposed distillery campus off U.S. 1 at Yadkin Road advanced Monday with a unanimous vote of approval from the Southern Pines Town Council.
Brad and Jessica Halling of Rickhouse Properties submitted a rezoning request earlier this year and plan to develop 4-acres of an existing 15-acre site in the town’s light industrial area as headquarters for their American Whiskey Co. distilled spirits plant. Their four-phase project includes production and storage facilities on the property, in addition to a cocktail bar and restaurant, retail area, office space for the business, and private tasting areas. Later phases include expansion of storage capacity and an outdoor stage facing the wooded rear portion of the property.
Jessica Halling has described the distillery and surrounding campus as a “post-military retirement purpose-driven project.” The couple have lived in Moore County since 1990 and feel the facility will promote the area while also encouraging military entreprepreneurship, business growth and key relationships with Fort Bragg. The branding of the distillery’s products will primarily feature military themes and be consistent with higher end spirits.
Brad Halling served in the Special Forces and retired as a Sergeant Major. Jessica Halling is a former JAG officer.
“We are regular people trying to make the American dream happen for the second time in our lives,” Halling said in February, speaking to the town’s Planning Board.
In late 2019, the N.C. General Assembly passed bipartisan legislation to advance distillery development in the state by lifting bottle sale limits and allowing for cocktail bars to operate within distillery manufacturing plants. The Hallings envision a small, regional distillery where guests and small groups can take a tour, try samples and have a bite to eat, and the opportunity to purchase merchandise at one location.
The proposed site is undeveloped and there is a known hazardous waste contamination issue due to chemical spill from a neighboring facility in years past. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) is completing a site evaluation and remediation plan under the Brownfields Program.
The conceptual development plan includes two conditions that permit an exemption on the town’s roof height maximum for a 50-foot column on the distillery plant building, and a required parking plan will be submitted with the preliminary development plan application.
Also on Monday, town leaders amended the Public Works Annex renovation project budget by shifting unused salary for the assistant town manager position, which was left vacant for a period following the departure of Chris Kennedy and hiring of Jessica Roth. Town Manager Reagan Parsons said that construction bids, across the board, have been coming in higher than original projections because of increased material costs. The surplus administrative funds will offset the rising project costs with no impact to the fund balance.
In a related discussion, the Southern Pines Town Council approved an interlocal agreement to provide mutual aid for building inspection services with the village of Pinehurst.
Building inspectors play a vital role in any commercial or residential development project. Southern Pines’ longtime chief building inspector, Eddie Garner, recently resigned from the town. There has also been a widening shortage in the building inspection field, in general, as tenured staff retire and fewer younger professionals are selecting this career field. The intent of the agreement is to provide additional support for each municipality’s own staffing resources.