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Flowery Branch may loosen alcohol rules
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From left, Marc Stampfli, Karen Ching and Robert Sabbath stand in Ching’s store on Main Street in Flowery Branch after the city’s council meeting on Thursday. The three are hoping for a rewrite of the city’s alcohol code to spur more downtown development. - photo by Nick Bowman

Want to have a glass of wine while getting your nails done? In Flowery Branch, you might just get the chance this year.

The South Hall city is weighing a rewrite of its alcohol codes that would offer substantial new freedom to business owners, residents and visitors in the immediate downtown area. 

A few major reforms are being introduced in February:

A downtown dining district covering the area near Main Street would be created similar to Gainesville’s, allowing the carrying of alcohol beverage in open containers within the district.

Amenity permits would be offered by the city, allowing retail businesses like nail salons or art galleries to sell limited amounts of alcohol. The permit would also exempt those businesses from buying through distributors given the small amount of alcohol they would be serving, according to Flowery Branch attorney Ron Bennett.

Art shops would be able to allow customers to bring in alcoholic beverages, a change geared for bring-your-own-beer painting classes that are becoming more popular throughout the country.

Corkage code would be changed to allow diners to carry in growlers along with bottles of wine to restaurants in the downtown area. Many restaurants charge a “corking fee” to diners bringing their own bottles.

Growler bar regulations would be loosened, allowing bars to sell four 6-ounce samples, up from three 1-ounce samples.

The changes come after the city of Gainesville approved many of the same changes in the past year, including Gainesville’s downtown dining district that allows the open carrying of alcoholic beverages. But Flowery Branch’s district would allow for a limited number of bars or taverns that can sell alcohol without being required to also sell food.

A Flowery Branch entrepreneur hoping to open a new growler store in the town praised the reforms on Thursday, saying they were a big move for the area.

“In a Georgia town especially,” said Robert Sabbath, “but I think what you guys are doing — looking forward — is good for business and the future of this city.”

Employees in any establishment serving alcohol would be required to get a pouring permit, which allows the city to check state records to see if the individual has a history of serving alcohol to minors or over-serving customers, Bennett told members of the Flowery Branch City Council on Thursday.

Businesses securing amenity permits would also have to go through an annual approval process and pay a $100 fee.

The sweeping changes to Flowery Branch code come as the downtown area sees more development. 

The town’s new City Hall is scheduled to open in mid-February, which will open more downtown space to private businesses. Within walking distance, developers are proposing a subdivision including more than 60 townhomes and 30 single-family residences. Other subdivisions near downtown are already in the works.

Toward the top of Main Street, Karen Ching is working with her son, Sabbath, and his business partner, Marc Stampfli, to build out three commercial spaces that would include a growler bar owned by Sabbath and Stampfli, a pizza shop and office space.

The pizza shop would be called Peyton’s Pie, owned by Nick and Alison St. Clair, who also own Antebellum, Flowery Branch’s renowned Southern restaurant.

“With Braselton and Gainesville coming up the way they are, if we want people to come to the downtown district, we’ve got to compete,” Ching said after the meeting. “We’ve got to do what they’re doing, because what they’re doing has been successful.”

City council members didn’t weigh in on the alcohol code rewrite on Thursday. The code changes will be officially introduced on Feb. 1, when the ordinance changes will go for their first vote. A second vote is set for Feb. 15. If it’s approved in two votes, the changes will be adopted by the city.

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