Marietta mulling updates to wine, brewing decrees
by Nikki Wiley
March 27, 2014 04:00 AM | 2253 views | 2 2 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Marietta City Council is once again considering how to best bring its ordinances up to date with a growing craft brewing and wine-making industry.

Last fall, council members looked at updating the city’s code to allow microbreweries, distilleries and wineries to operate on or near the Marietta Square.

City Council ultimately decided to loosen its restrictions that originally only allowed breweries to operate in areas categorized as light industrial. Now, the businesses can open in other areas considered to be commercial.

By industry standards, a microbrewery can produce up to 15,000 barrels of beer a year.

On Wednesday, the council considered adopting another ordinance to allow businesses that sell alcohol to host tastings and to allow the establishment of wine-only stores.

No decisions were made, and the council’s next voting meeting is set for April 9 at 7 p.m.

Businesses that sell growlers, which are jugs filled with draft beer and sealed on site, rely on tastings to make money.

Georgia has lagged behind other states that have changed their laws to become more inviting for local craft breweries, which often become tourist destinations. Now, local governments are faced with the challenge of fostering the growth of the industry while protecting nearby residences.

“The industry is growing and cities are forced to find how to be responsible but also be open to these types of commercial business,” said Councilman Stuart Fleming.

There’s a desire, Fleming said, from the business community to explore opening more craft brewing businesses.

Councilman Grif Chalfant also said it’s all part of nurturing a niche industry that hasn’t previously had a presence in Marietta.

“I think this would accommodate a new little industry that is growing,” Chalfant said. “It’s just a new aspect that wasn’t even in business a few years ago. Now a lot of people are interested in home brewing of their own.”

He says a business owner has approached the city with plans to open a business teaching individuals how to brew their own beer.

“They’re very interested in going in over on Whitlock Avenue,” Chalfant said.

Seeking a consistent approach

Chalfant said City Council has been inconsistent in how it has addressed tastings in the past.

“We’re allowing wine tastings right now, and I think that’s sort of outside of our ordinances, but we’ve addressed some people and turned them down and some people we’ve let do it. So I think we’ve got to be consistent and address it on a new ordinance,” Chalfant said.

City Council may also need to address a portion of its alcohol code that requires businesses be 300 feet from a college campus when selling beer and wine or 600 feet away when selling liquor.

That hasn’t been a problem in the past, said Brian Binzer, director of development services for the city, but a master plan created by the city, Southern Polytechnic University and Life University encourages bringing the campuses closer to Cobb Parkway.

The master plan also encourages a mixture of development including student housing, restaurants and retail along the Cobb Parkway corridor near the universities to create a college town feel.

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Jeff from Gwinnett
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March 27, 2014
Yes, Georgia is years behind other states when it comes to craft breweries. I applaud Marietta for examining the possibilities.

I believe there are more than 40 other states that allow tasting rooms in packaging breweries and self distribution for small brewers. NC is a prime example of that. They have about 100 craft brewers and three major craft brewers from the west have either opened or are in construction mode in NC. GA allows neither tasting rooms nor self distribution. Why GA Legislators are so obtuse is beyond me.

I just completed a craft brewery course in Colorado in a packaging brewery. That particular brewery has a tasting room that is open daily from 2-9pm and a little longer on weekends. Each day, the customers gathered for a beer or two. They were all well versed in craft beer and never did I see anyone become rowdy or become over intoxicated.

All over that state, small towns are welcoming small craft breweries with open arms as if it is a status symbol. The brewery that provided the course to me is also in the midst of opening a brewpub in another small town. That town is so excited that the town council actually bought and installed a sign announcing the coming soon status of the brewpub.

Things are not all bad in GA. The growler laws are friendlier here than in some states and the increase in ABV also made a whole new crop of craft beers and Belgian Ales accessible. But, the main reason we lag behind is the legality of tasting rooms. Small brewers generate a lot of cash flow through their tasting rooms. Commercial brewing equipment is not cheap and a common figure for a decent sized start-up is around $1.2 million.
Cobber
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March 27, 2014
Considering the hissy fit the OM's threw when a tattoo parlor opened on the square, I can't wait until they get wind of breweries or distilleries being allowed.
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