Craft beer culture is due for a revival in Jackson County as Jefferson gets its first taproom downtown.
The business owned by husband-and-wife team Mike and Jessie Martin had its grand opening Friday, July 26. As they open Revival Hall Taproom at 16 S Public Square in Jefferson, the couple are becoming part of a growing trend of evangelical Christians jumping into the beer and wine world.
The business has 20 beer taps and six wine taps carrying a revolving list from Georgia and national producers.
“It’s a strange name for a taproom, Revival Hall, but it’s rooted in our faith,” Mike Martin said on Friday, July 26, before the grand opening. “We want to serve people in a way that might be strange for a place like that. But we say, internally, that we want more for our community than we want from them.”
Other downtown business owners think the taproom will have plenty to offer Jefferson.
Andy Garrison, a partner at Inland Realty a couple of doors down from Revival Hall, said he’s optimistic about the future of downtown.
“I think it’s going to be great,” Garrison said of the taproom. “It’s a family-run outfit with the husband and wife and the kids. They’re very good community folks.”
David Nazaroff, who owns Sweets and Ices / Chili Dawgs with his wife, Kaete, said he hopes the new businesses in Jefferson will draw more people from nearby I-85 into downtown.
“If you live here, there’s not much to do. For the locals, I think (the taproom is) great, and you have people in Commerce and Braselton and other places, and maybe they want to go out and check out Jefferson,” Nazaroff said. “I just think the more businesses we have the better. Jefferson is small, so bringing in other folks is key to keeping businesses alive.”
In short, the birthplace of anesthesia is finally waking up.
Clean, bright and with only one TV that — when there’s not a Georgia, Falcons or Braves game on — stays hidden behind a piece of art, the Martins hope the space becomes a “community living room” for a town that has been starved for the wholesome side of nightlife.
The couple and their five children, Hyte, Hayes, Gray, Lula and Pearl, who range in age from 13 to 7, relocated from Lawrenceville to Jefferson after Mike and Jessie received inspiration from God.
It started about three years ago with a little note, forgotten for months, in a prayer journal that bubbled back to the surface after Mike finished a season of fasting.
“Out of that fast somebody just mentioned the city of Jefferson, and it was like something clicked in my brain,” he said. “I had never even been to Jefferson. I went home and told my wife, ‘I can’t stop thinking about this town, Jefferson.’”
It turns out Jessie had also had a similar thought well up in her mind months earlier.
“She said six months (earlier) she was in a moment of prayer, and she wrote down in her prayer journal: God is stirring in Jefferson. And she said it happened again (the week before) in worship at church: God is stirring in Jefferson.”
That same day the couple drove to Jefferson to see the town. They put their Lawrenceville home on the market and it sold five days later.
They were free, heading east and looking for a way to serve their new community. In the meantime, the couple paid the bills running the taproom of Slow Pour Brewing Co., which is owned by a relative of the Martins.
The new gig was a huge change for Mike Martin, who grew up working in churches.
“I’ve been a pastor at church my whole life,” he said. “I grew up in the church, and our faith is a big deal. Three years ago I just felt like I was just done at the church, nothing against them — it was 12Stone Church out of Gwinnett — I just felt like my time there was done.”
With a new job and a new home, the couple set about looking for a new calling. They talked to locals in Jefferson asking what the community needed: Did it have a drug problem, a crime problem or some other malady that could use their ministrations?
“We were just going to try to plug in and do whatever was needed in the community, but as we were asking around the biggest thing that would come up was that people needed to hang out. People would say that repeatedly, and at first we were like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what’s the significant issue?’” Martin said. “But that’s when it clicked. When we started working at the taproom, we thought maybe this was the best way to serve: Create a space to bring the community in.”
Last year, the Revival Hall Taproom started to take shape. The family took ownership of the building at 16 S Public Square in December 2018 and had it renovated by April. After a few hurdles with local regulations, the Martins got the go-ahead from the Jefferson City Council in June to open the business, according to the Jackson Herald.
The business follows the standard cultural rules of taprooms in North Georgia: Dogs are allowed (if only out on the patio), as is outside food and children of all ages. Revival Hall sells packaged snacks and plans to have food trucks turn up at the shop.
“It’s a new concept for Jefferson,” said Beth Laughinghouse, manager of Main Street Jefferson. “I think people are going to be very receptive to it when they see that it’s not a bar. It’s truly a family gathering space, so if mom and dad want to bring preteen children ... certainly that’s the spot they’re going to be able to do that downtown.”
Eventually, the Martins said they want the taproom to not only be a community gathering spot, but to help grow people in their faith and personal relationships.
“We’ll be doing a lot of charity stuff; we’re going to have nights that are like marriage date nights, where we have a local pastor or a keynote speaker come in and just talk about what it means to have a healthy marriage. We’re going to do a parenting night,” Mike Martin said. “It will always be a place where we want our kids to be welcome and to be safe. That goes for everybody.”