IW planners endorse Blue Sky Distillery relocation

Published 4:04 pm Thursday, January 25, 2024

Isle of Wight County’s Planning Commission has endorsed a conditional zoning amendment that would allow Blue Sky Distillery to relocate to the former Kuntry Kabin antiques store off Benns Church Boulevard.

While the property is already zoned general commercial, its 1984 rezoning had allowed the Kuntry Kabin’s former owners to retain agricultural uses. The commissioners, in a unanimous Jan. 23 vote, recommended approval of Blue Sky co-owner Mike Miller’s application conditioned on his written agreement to remove the outdated agricultural uses that are now incompatible with the property’s current zoning, and to establish in writing a road maintenance agreement with other users of the shared private gravel driveway that serves the property. Both agreements are to be in place prior to Feb. 15, when the county’s supervisors are to take a final vote on Miller’s application.

Miller has already begun interior renovations and hopes to be open for business by the beginning of March, assuming the supervisors give final approval next month.

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Blue Sky began producing original liquors in 2017 when the business operated out of a shared warehouse in the Isle of Wight Industrial Park, which is roughly a quarter-mile away from the Kuntry Kabin site. Blue Sky’s former owners, Mark and Kim Rangos, have since pulled out and turned the business over to Miller and co-owners David and Youlivia Riley, Youlivia Meneses and Jason Lee Lacer.

The business uses regionally-sourced ingredients, including wheat from Charles City County, bottles from Richmond and honey from Breezy Hill Meadworks, a Smithfield-based company formerly known as Serendipity. A number of Blue Sky’s creations owe their brand names to the area, including “Dog Star” vodka, named for a star in the Canis Major constellation that can be seen in the evening sky in the American south from winter to mid-spring. Blue Sky donates a portion of the proceeds from each Dog Star vodka sale to benefit animal welfare.

“We cannot operate as a restaurant, or what you may call a bar,” Miller told the commissioners, noting state law sets strict limitations on distilleries. They cannot serve food and are limited to serving up to 3 ounces of liquor per customer on site in their tasting room.

The new space, Miller said, would allow Blue Sky to expand its offerings and potentially consign arts and crafts by local writers, painters, musicians and candlemakers. He’s also planning to expand into hosting small events.

“It’s not a space that’s going to house 200 people at any given time we’re not permitted for that under the health department,” Miller said.

During the commission’s public hearing, Miller and three others affiliated or looking to affiliate with the business urged approval of Miller’s application.