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Penticton distillery hopes to relocate

The owners of a distillery that has operated in Penticton's industrial area for several years, hope to make a move to Naramata Road.

Maple Leaf Spirits Inc. would like to relocate from Carmi Avenue to be more visible in the community, both to residents and tourists alike.

"We need the tourists, and we have to tap into the tourist flow out there," said owner Jorg Engel. 

So far, the Penticton council has shown support after first reading on the matter at Monday's meeting. Under discussion was rezoning the property at 948 Naramata Road in Penticton to allow a craft brewery/distillery in the agricultural area.

According to Jorg and Anette Engel, Maple Leaf Spirits Inc., is the oldest BC distillery still in original ownership, opening their distillery in 2005 in Penticton and tasting room in 2006. 

They were also instrumental in getting the provincial legislation changed.

"We are founding members of the BC Craft Distillers Guild and have been involved in a lot of lobbying and groundwork, talking with several local and BC ministers and politicians over the years at our distillery, as well as in Victoria and Vancouver," said Anette Engel.  "And the new changes in provincial liquor legislation have put craft distilleries on a more level playing field with farm gate wineries."

Over the years they have received support from the city council for their efforts and are hopeful their latest venture moves in a positive direction.

Mayor Garry Litke is enthusiastic about the idea.

"I think it's a great initiative," he said. "And they are using local produce, pears, cherries and apricots, to create the product, which makes it appropriate use of agricultural land."

Since they opened, the distillery has offered fruit brandies and liqueurs from Okanagan fruit. They also do tours and tastings for the public.

In the new location, an existing building, across from the Ruby Blues and Red Rooster wineries, there will be a distillery with a production end and a tasting room.

They take possession of the property on Feb. 1, and assuming everything goes well with the City, hope to open by mid-April.

Their application now goes to a public hearing on Feb. 3.

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