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Vodka distillery owners leaving Prince Edward Island

The owners of a potato vodka distillery in eastern P.E.I. are leaving the province in part over concerns about the wind farm development in their community.

Arla Johnson, one of the owners of the Prince Edward Distillery in Hermanville, says she and her partner, Julie Shore, are opening a second distillery in Nova Scotia.

Operations in P.E.I. will continue, but the two owners are moving to the mainland due to their concern over the Hermanville-Clear Springs wind farm project.

“We have chosen to relocate to Nova Scotia, Julie and I, because we refuse to live under the windmills,” Johnson said.

“However, we’re still going to operate the Prince Edward Distillery.”

Shore was a vocal opponent of the wind farm during the initial approval phase of the project in 2012. In her role as the spokesperson for the Hermanville-Clear Springs Property Owners Association, she urged the provincial government to reconsider the project, citing concerns over diminished property values and potential negative health effects.

The project went ahead after 71 per cent of area landowners within a one-kilometre area around the development site signed agreements with the province for the 30-megawatt wind farm development.

Johnson did not offer any details about how their distillery in P.E.I. will be affected by their move or what their plans are for the new Nova Scotia branch of their operations.

But they did say the business in Hermanville would continue.

“Julie and I have chosen to expand our distillery and open up another one in Nova Scotia, but Prince Edward Distillery is still there,” Johnson said.

“Prince Edward Distillery will still be made and sold there on P.E.I.”

The Prince Edward Distillery has been the recipient of several government grants.

Since 2009, the company received a total of $73,678 from the provincial government in the form of marketing and trade assistance, including a grant for craft brewers and distillers.

The company also received a conditionally repayable grant from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) of $75,000 in 2009-10 to build markets in Germany and Japan.

ACOA would not provide details on the terms and conditions of this grant, citing client confidentiality.

The Prince Edward Distillery also received funds through the Provincial Nominee Program. It was included in the official list of recipient companies, released by the province in 2012 after a judicial review of an access-to-information request ruled the information should be made public.

The provincial corporate registry lists four Chinese directors as officers in the company along with Shore, Johnson and three other individuals.

The Prince Edward Distillery’s flagship product is vodka made from P.E.I. potatoes.