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Are distilleries allowed in Tacoma?

Yes!  In 2008, the State of Washington began promoting new business opportunities for craft distillers. A distillery license would be issued by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB).  To find out which licenses are applicable see liq.wa.gov. If you’re proposing a very small-scale distillery (under 5,000 gallons per year of product) see the Craft Production Tip Sheet.

Steps to Starting a Distillery

  • Research State distillery laws and licenses
  • Develop a business plan
  • Find the right location
  • Prepare preliminary floor plan and site plan
  • Secure financing
  • Schedule a scoping meeting with the City
  • Contact the Pierce County Health Department
  • Obtain construction or remodel permits
  • Apply for a Washington State Liquor Control Board distillery license, other state licenses, and City business licenses.
  • Apply for a federal permit and label approval

Finding the Right Location

To find the appropriate location for your business, zoning information may be retrieved at www.govme.org by clicking on “My Tacoma” on the left side of the page, searching by parcel number or address, then clicking on the “My Parcel” tab. Alternatively, available buildings and properties may also be searched at www.tacomaspace.com.

Zoning districts where distilleries are permissible:

  • Downtown Commercial Core (DCC)
  • Downtown Mixed-Use (DMU)
  • Warehouse Residential (WR)
  • Heavy-Industrial (M-2)
  • Port Maritime & Industrial (PMI)

If you have questions about a potential location, contact a Land Use Planner at 253-591-5030. Once you know the use is allowed, prepare a concept floor plan and site plan, and request a scoping meeting at www.TacomaPermits.org.  All applicable reviewers will discuss the project at your scoping meeting to answer questions and confirm the submittal requirements for a building permit application.

Schedule a Scoping Meeting

Meetings can be scheduled through TacomaPermits.org.

Please provide the following items prior to the scoping meeting date:

  • Preliminary site plan, floor plan(s), and exterior building elevations or photos
  • Details about the equipment that will be used and any additional desired business operations

Areas depicted in gray are zones that allow craft distilleries.

Building Construction or Remodel

If you are planning to use an existing building, there are several items to consider:

  • How old is the building and how was it constructed? What materials were used?
  • Is the building going to be used strictly for manufacturing liquor, or is the general public going to be invited into the building on a regular basis for tastings, tours, classes, and/or retail sales?
  • If the public will have access to the building, would the occupancy of the building be equal to 50 people or more?
  • Would the new craft distillery be more hazardous or intense than the prior use that it is replacing?
  • Does the remodeling of the building exceed 50% of the value of the building?
  • Would this would require a change occupancy classification of the existing building?

Fire Protection

Since distilling involves hazardous liquids, it will be important to know the amount of materials that are being processed at each stage of manufacturing the product. The City Fire Protection Engineer should be consulted at the preliminary stages of planning a distillery to ensure that all applicable codes and regulations are considered. A Fire Protection Engineer may be reached at 253-591-5503. Questions to consider are:

  • Does the intended building have an automatic fire sprinkler system?
  • If the building does not have an automatic fire sprinkler system, does the amount of alcohol (ethanol – C2H5OH) produced per production batch exceed the Maximum Allowable Quantity which ranges between 30-gallons to 240-gallons of Class IB flammable liquids depending on the actual situation? In general, if the distillery process is a “closed” system as defined by the Fire Code, then you could have up to 60-gallons being processed without a building fire sprinkler system or 120-gallons with one. If the distillery process is an “open” system as defined by the Fire Code, then you could have only up to 30-gallons being processed without a building fire sprinkler system or 60-gallons with one.
  • Is the interior of the building divided into separate fire areas?
  • Contact a private design professional to help you review the adopted International Fire Code in relation to your proposal to determine the major design criteria and develop a scope of work.

Stormwater and Wastewater Disposal

Plans for stormwater mitigation and wastewater discharges are reviewed by Environmental Services and they may be reached at 253-591-5760. The following items may be applicable to a distillery:

  • All wastewater discharges must comply with TMC 12.08.
  • Pretreatment of some waste streams may be required. If a pretreatment permit is required, the processing time for this permit is about 90 days from receipt of a complete application.
  • Depending on materials stored and manufactured at the site, an Accidental Spill Prevention Plan (ASPP) may be required. Spill containment may also be required for certain stored materials.
  • Food service establishments shall be evaluated to determine if grease protection is required.
  • Dumpster pads will require a drain to the sanitary sewer system if wet wastes are placed in the dumpster.
  • Periodic source control inspections of commercial and industrial facilities are conducted by Environmental Services.

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department

The Health Department regulates certain aspects of craft distillery operations, such as hazardous waste. For information about Pierce County’s regulations, call 253- 798-6500 or visit www.tpchd.org.

Bainbridge Organic Distillery was one of the first new craft distilleries in Washington to be approved since the WSLCB started issuing licenses.

Applicable Regulations

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