Scott Romain said he painted this sign in the front window of what was supposed to be a restaurant in downtown Caro to build excitement over the project. After a Caro City Council vote Monday, it will likely open elsewhere in the region. (Photo by John Cook)

Cass City courting $1.2M microdistillery

Scott Romain
Scott Romain

Cass City has thrown its hat into the ring as a potential home for a $1.2 million rum micodistillery and restaurant project originally proposed for downtown Caro.

Entrepreneur and Caro Native Scott Romain said at least one representative from his team will meet with Cass City officials tonight at their request to review his project and business plan.

At the same time, Romain will be meeting with a committee formed by Caro City Council Monday that will reconsider and evaluate the plan after not recommending the project receive the necessary liquor licenses from the state on Sept. 19 because it was deemed too close to a church. “All we are doing is listening to (Cass City’s) pitch,” Romain said Tuesday. “There is a building in downtown Cass City that needs repair and they wanted to show us.”

Cass City Village Manager Peter Cristiano did not return several messages left by The Advertiser Tuesday.

Steve Erickson, executive director, Tuscola County Economic Develop Corp. and Cass City council member, could not be reached.

However, Nancy Barrios, also a member of Cass City Village Council, said she was the one from Cass City who reached out to Romain to determine his interest in Cass City.

“I would be excited and thrilled if they would bring it to Cass City,” Barrios said. “When I read in the paper that they are having a hard time in Caro, and also being pursued by Vassar and Bay City, I thought ‘Well, you know, Cass City’s got a lot to offer.’”

Barrios said initial discussion with Romain has included highlighting Cass City’s status as a “nice, clean community.”

She highlighted a number of business investments in the works already, too, including Cass City Market, being developed by Mark Molter.

Molter told Tuscola County Board of Commissioners last week that the project is now valued at $5.2 million (as opposed to $4 million), due to slight changes in the original design.

“We’re growing, we’re finally getting our grocery store back, we’ve got the (Dairy Farmers of America) plant expansion, and the (Hills & Dales) hospital expansion,” she said. “We’ve got a wonderful school district, we’ve got large streets that are wide and can accommodate traffic and we have storefronts and buildings that are available.

“I think it would be wonderful,” she said.

As The Advertiser reported June 4, Romain, 30, originally planned to open Thumb Rum & Brew by the end of the year at 119-121 North State Street in Caro (most recently the location of Anna’s Attic).

Because rum is made from molasses, the microdistillery would be able to take advantage of close proximity to the Thumb region’s massive sugar beet growing and processing operations.

He said plans included a restaurant called “The Destination,” which is why he painted “What’s Your Destination…2017” in the windows, though in the last two weeks someone has erased the “7” from 2017. He has said the project could ultimately create 30 new jobs.

On Sept. 19, however, Caro City Council voted 5-2 against approval of two motions, one involving recommending a license for the microdistillery and another for the restaurant. The reason given to the state was close proximity to a church, though officials have since said there were “other reasons.”

Since then, frustration levels have grown in Caro and the city council has agreed to reconsider the plan – a process that begins with tonight’s meeting.

As of Tuesday, Romain said he isn’t committed to one location yet (though he did buy the Caro building of the proposed site in April).

“I will keep all options open until my team and I are satisfied with a location,” Romain said.

For additional coverage from The Advertiser of the microdistillery project, see  http://bit.ly/2dxOsRn

Andrew Dietderich is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at andrew@tcadvertiser.com

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