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Power struggle threatens Waco’s Balcones Distilling

Arianna Auber

Waco’s Balcones Distilling could see operations and a major expansion at the distillery disrupted as a feud between top management continues to erupt, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported last week.

The quarreling between Charles “Chip” Tate, Balcones’ president and head distiller, and the company’s board of directors has become a legal battle, “with board members obtaining a temporary restraining order to enforce its 90-day suspension of Tate, issued Aug. 8,” the newspaper wrote. The board is seeking a temporary injunction against Tate, and a hearing in the case is set for Sept. 18.

According to documents filed in the dispute, Tate reportedly threatened the life of one of the board members, Greg Allen, and has repeatedly missed important meetings. Court filings by the distillery also state that Tate owes Balcones $14,947 for personal charges he put on a company credit card and won’t repay.

Under his direction, the whisky distillery, founded in 2008, tripled its production capacity after releasing well-regarded spirits that have earned more than 60 awards over the years, including, as the Waco Trib reported, 2012 World Whisky Distillery of the Year and U.S. Craft Distillery of the Year at the inaugural Wizards of Whisky competition. Balcones is now in the process of a $10 million expansion — but that’s now in danger, board members allege in a court petition, because of Tate’s “unconscionable and reprehensible” actions.

Tate, according to court documents, said “I should have put two in his chest,” referring to shooting Allen after their conversations about Tate’s actions. Tate owns guns and kept them at his Balcones office, the petition alleges,” the newspaper wrote.

The board was able to secure the temporary restraining order against Tate on Aug. 22. That means Tate can’t visit the distillery unless he’s made prior arrangements, contact Balcones’ employees or suppliers, or talk to anyone in the spirits industry or with the media about Balcones and his role in it. He also can’t use company credit or debit cards.

We’ve written about Balcones Distilling in the past, including this article about the distillery receiving yet another prestigious award.