Gainesville City Council has postponed a vote on a proposal to lower the amount of wine that can be served for tastings from 24 ounces to 8 ounces.
City officials said they will go back to the table and review the proposal once more following complaints from local business owners.
“I do think it’s a bad idea,” said Matt Vrahiotes, owner of Sweet Acre Farms, the first farm winery in the county, located in Alto. “Government shouldn’t regulate what patrons can do.”
Councilman Zack Thompson said the proposal arose, in part, because wine often has higher alcohol content by volume than beer.
But that’s a bit of an antiquated notion.
Thompson, who is the co-owner of Tap It Gainesville Growlers on Thompson Bridge Road, said craft beers available these days often have the highest alcohol content of any drink besides liquor.
Nick Hoecker, owner of Downtown Drafts in the Gainesville square, which serves growlers (beer to-go), said lowering the amount of wine he can serve on-site would hurt his business and present a slippery slope leading to more regulation of beer tastings.
“We’re a café, not a bar,” he said. “I can’t serve (wine tastings) to them for $10.”
Hoecker added that the concept of his business is that patrons get to taste different beers and wines at cheap prices before deciding on more expensive growler or bottle purchases.
By comparison, one bottle of wine, on average, equals 25.4 ounces.
Councilman George Wangemann cast the lone dissent. He has long objected to liberalizing local alcohol laws out of religious and social reasons.
Wangemann said he believes changes to the city’s alcohol ordinance in the last two years — for example, streamlining permitting and eliminating outdated restrictions — have encouraged more people to drink irresponsibly, placing a larger burden on local public safety agencies.
For Chet White, however, the tastings are ideal.
He dropped into Downtown Drafts on Wednesday afternoon and ordered a “flight” of four 3-ounce portions of craft beer.
He’s been coming to Downtown Drafts regularly for the past six weeks or so, he said, because he likes the low-key atmosphere and good conversation without any drunks around.
“For me, it doesn’t attract that crowd,” he said.
Hoecker said he has had a good relationship with city officials and is happy they amended city ordinances to allow his business to exist in the first place.
But he’s unclear about the motivation behind the latest proposal.
“We haven’t had any problems,” Hoecker said. “So why the change?”