Middletown distillery seeks 10-year, 100 percent tax break

On the same night Middletown City Council will consider selling the property at 1316 Vail Ave. and two others to Liberty Spirits LLC for $1, City Manager Doug Adkins will recommend the council give the startup micro-distillery a 100 percent tax abatement for 10 years.

Liberty Spirits is owned by real-estate owner/broker Mike Robinette, a former Middletown city economic development and planning employee, who plans to produce vodka, gin and moonshine, plus aged bourbon and whiskey, at the micro-distillery.

“Liberty Spirits is a start-up business in an emerging industry which is highly competitive. In order for Liberty Spirits to succeed, controllable cost must be kept to a minimum,” Robinette wrote as explanation for the 10-year, 100 percent tax abatement request, according to the application he filed in September:

According to the application, Liberty Spirits plans to spend $35,000 acquiring the 4,000-square-foot building at 1357 Central Ave. — two properties away from the 4,000-square-foot city-owned structure he plans to buy from Middletown for $1 and renovate. The firm estimates it will spend $50,000 renovating the buildings at Vail and Central, spend $150,000 on machinery and equipment, $35,000 on furniture and fixtures, and another $30,000 on inventory, according to its application for tax breaks.

The city in 2010 spent $90,000 in local money to buy the property at 1316 Vail, which is in disrepair, from a custom-cabinetry company. At one point, the city planned to raze the building. Middletown also spent $215,000 in federal funds to buy and raze buildings on two adjacent vacant properties that are part of the proposed $1 sale.

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Under the proposed sale to Liberty Spirits, if the Vail Avenue project is not completed by Dec. 31, the company will be in default of the agreement, and the city can give the company notice that the property will revert to city government within 60 days if work isn’t finished, Adkins has told council members. The real estate cannot be transferred to anyone else before the project is developed.

The company estimated it would have four part-time employees in the year after the project’s completion, with an annual payroll of $80,000.

Middletown City Council in 2015 approved tax abatements for two projects that have been put into effect: A 10-year, 75 percent break for NTE Energy’s $645 million power plant near Cincinnati-Dayton and Oxford State roads; and a 15-year, 100 percent break for AK Steel’s $36 million Research and Innovation Center.

Council also approved two other tax abatements for projects that have not come to fruition.

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