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New York distillery regulations


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Hey all, new user, long time lurker of this forum!

Startup vodka distillery in upstate NY. We have already been approved by our town board for operation, they were mainly only concerned with waste and our heating source.

VERY small operation (tiny), pre-existing building. currently has OSB walls/ceilings, but everything can easily and quickly be changed.

At this point we are stuck on regulations. We have spoken with local building codes enforcement, he says he will have nothing to do with our operation. We spoke with county fire inspector, he said he doesn't inspect distilleries. I spoke with NY state health department several times, they advise me because we're not serving/producing food, they won't oversee us.

My question is, before we go ahead and finish building, who do we need to please? I have read the FDA is making visits to distilleries over the past couple of years, and other people on these boards seem to have an issue with fire codes, but I cant find anyone who wants to enforce these regulations on us (which is awesome), but seems too good to be true.

Health/Fire codes regarding the materials and layout of out building.

Thanks in advance.

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In NYS, assuming you're a farm distiller, the NY department of Ag and Markets is your governing body. They will do periodic well being checks. The worst thing we encountered was a lack of paper towels by the hand washing sink.

In regards to distillery buildout inspectors...you need to have your local building inspector and fire inspector on board. You will also need your electrician to have, or find your own, electrical inspector. Those three need to be onboard with your plan and sign off on every step you make. I have found that no one knows what their talking about in regards to what fire, electrical and building codes apply to a distillery. It is your job to be fluent in the generally approved practices. The most centralized source for reference is the fire recommendations that DISCUS puts out for a rather large fee ($150 i remember correctly). Otherwise you must slog through whatever code book your local town treats as gospel.

If your local building inspectors who have jurisdiction aren't willing to work with you, you have a problem. You need your town to sign off before the dominoes of higher tier governments will allow you to move forward. The federal TTB license assumes you have approval at a state and local level, for example. I can't stress enough how important this is. If they wont sign off, you don't have a distillery and need to relocate.

I would start by buttering up and involving your local building inspector. They should, if they're doing their job correctly, bring in the fire inspector and yield to the electrical inspector for their respective fields. Once again, assume they know nothing about what distilling and how regs apply. It may be worth it to you to seek out a fire safety engineer who is completely aware of the needs within a distillery to help plan and design your still house. This may be a way to soothe the nerves of your local inspectors that you've already contacted.

We ran into a tremendous amount of unplanned expenses due to electrical work our local code people didn't know about. Everyone is trying to pass off liability and cover their asses in case something happens in your space and they become scared and over demand based off of little knowledge. I can't stress enough how much YOU need to know about the regs and what your space should look like (engineer would be helpful). This is crucially important so you have a SAFE SPACE to work in day in and day out, and hopefully inspectors will come on board for you.

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 5 years later...
2 hours ago, BuffaloBink said:

Starting up an old topic, but what if the distillery is NOT on a farm license, and just a standard a-1 license?

Generally poor message board etiquette to restart an old thread and hijack it at the same time.


Given you are not seeking the actual information from this thread, it would be best for you to begin your own thread. As well, general rule of thumb per message boards in general, not really the verbatim rules of this forum, is to allow sleeping dogs to lie (not kick up five year old threads, especially to talk off topic on them)



At this point in time I would normally remind people there is a great search function on the board, but I am assuming you used it to find this half of a decade dead conversation. Welcome to the forums! 

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