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Gainesville Distilling drops midtown plans
Cause unclear as company seeks new location
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Gainesville Distilling Company no longer plans to open at 456 Industrial Blvd. in midtown Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

The Gainesville Distilling Co. won’t be coming to the former Georgia Chair factory in midtown, the company has revealed on Facebook.

Run by Douglas Nassaur and Jennifer Wheatley, Gainesville Distilling was planned for 456 Industrial Blvd., the former chair factory. 

The property and the surrounding 13-acre block is almost entirely owned by Bob Cheeley, an Alpharetta attorney, who did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday, June 27. With Nassaur also declining to comment on Wednesday — he told The Times more news would be coming at the end of the week — it wasn’t immediately clear why the business wasn’t opening at the midtown factory.

“Howdy spirit lovers,” the company wrote on its Facebook page. “We wanted to let everyone know that we have just discovered our current location is not going to work out. While we are sad to have invested in the location and have it not work out, things happen for a reason.”

On social media, the Gainesville Distilling Co. has said it has a few leads on a new location in town that “might actually allow us to open sooner than our current location” on Industrial Boulevard. 

On the same page, the company acknowledged that it does not yet have its federal distilling license, and the city of Gainesville still doesn’t allow distilleries to operate within the city limits. A change to the code might come in July, but there’s no guarantee the council will vote to allow distilleries.

Gainesville Distilling Co. got off to a rocky start with the city. 

It didn’t have its certificate of occupancy permit — the document that allows the company to do business on the site and host the public — when it scheduled private events at the site. Temporary permits were granted by the city to host a high-profile wedding and Casey Cagle’s primary-night party, which had been scheduled before the city agreed to grant the temporary permit.

“The issue we had here is, this property in the beginning had a lot of hopes, dreams and operations,” Nassaur told The Times in late May. “During that time, there were some starts and stops. Because there were a bunch of different contractors and different people involved, how we approached the city, we didn’t follow step 1, step 2, step 3.”

Gainesville Distilling wrote that the concept for a new location includes a restaurant with beer and wine and a speakeasy bar — the company has embraced a Prohibition-era theme — that would open before the distillery.

The company has been selling $250 annual memberships, or a lifetime membership for $1,500, that include “special discounts, invitations and gifts. Each Old 385 Club member is entitled to a unique membership ID, their personal Whiskey glass on site, free tours, half priced visitor tours, $2 off cocktails, quarterly barrel tasting events and invitation to the annual member only picnic,” according to the company’s website.

After the company posted that it would not open at the former Georgia Chair factory, the company said online that it would refund that money to customers if requested but planned to move forward ordering the merchandise.

Cheeley told The Times in early June that he purchased the property in 2016 with the hopes of restoring it to serve as an event venue, restaurant space and distillery. 

“I just saw the property really had great historical value and charm. It’s an old, industrial village, and it really needed to be preserved and given a (new) use,” Cheeley said. “I envisioned then that it would be a great place to have a distillery or a brewery, a place for social gatherings and a restaurant. That’s what we set our sights on accomplishing.”

Nassaur and Wheatley were brought into the project after it had already been branded The Chair Factory, a wedding and event space with an industrial feel. The property was rebranded Gainesville Distilling Co. — complete with a large mural of the company’s name stretching the side of what was once the Georgia Chair administrative office.