On June 5th, the City of Sandy Springs passed Ordinance 2012-06-15 legalizing growler sales and since then multiple businesses have applied for licenses to begin pouring craft beer for off-premise consumption by thirsty Georgians. Unfairly excluded from those who can immediately begin to profit from the new ordinance is the Five Seasons Brewpub in the Prado, who has been brewing and serving craft beer to the Sandy Springs community for over a decade. Why would one of the original key players in promoting and educating customers on craft beer be discriminated against in this case?
Since The Five Seasons sells neither liquor by the bottle nor gasoline, which are the only two restrictions mentioned in the Sandy Springs ordinance, the issue isn’t with the new law. According to Wendell Willard (the Attorney for the City of Sandy Springs and Georgia State House Representative for District 49) the prohibition against The Five Seasons has to do with the Georgia Department of Revenue’s interpretation of the original law legalizing brew pubs back in 1995 – GA HB374.
I am not a lawyer but in reviewing GA HB374 I can only find two references that could possibly address growler sales by brew pubs. They are as follows:
One section of HB374 states that: “A brew pub license does not authorize the holder of such license to sell alcoholic beverages by the package for consumption off the premises.”
Note that the above section does not prohibit brew pubs from selling alcoholic beverages by the package for consumption off the premises. It simply states that a brew pub license does not authorize such sales. Other licenses are required by anyone selling growlers to the public, so why not issue such other licenses to brew pubs as well?
A previous section of HB374 also states that: “Possession of a brew pub license shall not prevent the holder of such license from obtaining a retail consumption dealer’s license or a retailer’s license for the same premises.” So, why would possession of a brew pub license prevent the holder of such a license from obtaining licensing necessary to pour growlers?
Successful brew pubs like The Five Seasons are neighborhood institutions. They make heavy investments in both brewing and restaurant equipment. They provide jobs for brewers, bartenders, cooks, and restaurant and wait staff. They invest in facilities, event space and parking. They pay hefty payroll, property taxes and licensing fees. They balance the challenge of brewing craft beer with running a successful dining establishment, all while being active members in the local community.
Currently in Sandy Springs, bars and restaurants that do not brew their own beer are free to pour growlers (with appropriate licensing) — but not brew pubs. Multiple new growler stores have already applied for licensing and will soon be pumping craft beer into bottles for thirsty Georgians – but not brew pubs. Restraint of trade? Unfair competitive advantage? Either way, it is ludicrous and discriminatory.
Hopefully, the Georgia Department of Revenue will review its interpretation of GA HB374 and allow brew pubs the same market access it has given other bars, restaurants, and growler outlets. Maybe then those originally responsible for founding, educating, and growing the craft brew market for years in Georgia will get to enjoy an equitable share of the fruits of their labor.