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Delays push back beer boutique's move into square
Growlers on Main in Flowery Branch has put its expansion plans into downtown Gainesville on hold.

Growlers on Main in Flowery Branch came exploding onto the scene with great fanfare and positive reviews in late January, with demand uniquely driving up supply.

The number of beer taps at the boutique package store has risen to 30 from 24 since it opened.

And it’s easy to see why.

Growlers on Main serves craft beer from the country’s finest microbreweries straight from the tap and sealed in glass jars (called growlers) ready-made to take home. The draft-beer-to-go concept has flourished in the West for years, but is only now beginning to cut a trail in Georgia and across the Southeast.

The critical reception for Growlers on Main ran so deep so quickly that Gainesville officials met with owner Alan Davenport to gauge his interest in opening a new location in the downtown square.

The city offered to provide up to $1,000 in matching funds for signage and, in early April, approved an amendment to its alcohol ordinance so Growlers could move into the square, serving taste tests and partnering with event producers for local festivals.

Davenport then signed a lease for a downtown square location at 110 N. Bradford St., near Recess Southern Gastro-pub and the YellowFin restaurant. A grand opening was tentatively set for May 1.

“My father taught me that hesitation is a deal killer,” Davenport told The Times when the ordinance change was approved, adding he had plans to franchise his business and open additional locations outside Hall County. But as often happens with new businesses trying to catch a foothold in the market, complications with the lease property have put these plans on hold.

“We want to get it right the first time,” Davenport said, adding the delay in opening in Gainesville has been a kind of relief after the hectic past few months.

The Bradford Street location turned into “too much hassle,” Davenport said, after renovations for a new sink became costly and time-consuming.

Davenport then began scouting other locations in the downtown area, hoping to find a space that could meet his desire to mirror the look, style and feel of the original Flowery Branch establishment. But, he said, he’s found properties that for one reason or another, such as limited space, do not fit the bill.

“What they’re going through right now kind of represents what’s happening in the economy here,” said Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. “When you look around the square, there are fewer and fewer spaces available.”

Davenport said he is currently eyeing several locations in the square, waiting to see if current tenants renew their leases.

He added he remains committed to opening on the square, as it plays well into his plans to piggyback on festivals and events held there.

Evans said he expects renovations at the Brenau Downtown Center to attract growth for existing businesses on the square and drive up demand for additional space and new services in the downtown core.

He said he is hopeful the surface parking lot next to the center can be developed with private investment in the coming years, building out the fourth side of the square.

“I think we all need to realize ... that that’s valuable land for additional small-business owners,” Evans said.

Davenport said he hopes to open by midsummer, barring any other obstacles, and plans to employ two full-time and one part-time employee.

“We’re still excited about coming up there,” he said.

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