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Homer City officials pave way for distillery

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Homer City officials signed off on a zoning change Tuesday that would allow a proposed whiskey and vodka distillery to open on Main Street.

The planning commission voted 4-0 to recommend to borough council that “microdistillery” be added to the list of businesses that can open in the borough's commercial zone. Commission member Robert Toth was absent.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania geography professor Bob Sechrist and his retired colleague Bob Begg, have proposed opening their distillery, Disobedient Spirits, in the blue brick building at 30 S. Main St. that once housed Runzo grocery store.

More than 60 people packed the Homer City fire hall and spilled out the doorway for the hour-long meeting where about 20 people voiced their concerns about or support for the distillery.

“The location and the name are in very poor taste,” said the Rev. Joe Stains, pastor of Homer City United Methodist Church, next door to the proposed distillery.

The church hosts Celebrate Recovery meetings weekly, which aim to help people overcome substance abuse, addictions and other challenges.

“As a resident of Homer City, we're just not comfortable with (the distillery) being on Main Street,” said Bob Piccirillo. “Most of us wouldn't be here if this was going in an appropriate spot.”

Resident Ben Day said the borough used to have a state store, hardware stores and many other businesses.

“I would love to see a new business on Main Street. I like the tourism aspect,” said Day.

Begg and Sechrist have said they plan to offer tours and samples and sell their products on site.

“I don't see why it would be a bad thing to have business,” said Andrew Pozik, whose father own's Pozik's Auto Shop. “I'm in favor of people who are entrepreneurs. You are bringing a business into town and businesses build on each other.”

If borough council approves the recommended zoning change, Begg said they hope to close on the building soon after and start renovations so they can begin experimenting with recipes later this summer.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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