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Gainesville planning board OKs new brewery location
Craft brewer plans to operate at Chicopee Mill
Pap Datta, right, and his team stand outside the former Johnson & Johnson factory at Chicopee on Tuesday as they take a tour of the building into which they hope to move their brewery. Members of Datta’s team are, from the left, head brewer Jason Ford, architect John O’Connell, and head of research and development Rick Foote.

It’s not quite back to the drawing board, but Left Nut Brewing Co. is once again seeking approval from Gainesville officials to open the city’s first craft brewery.

And the Planning and Appeals Board on Tuesday night gave the initial nod.

Plans to open in the midtown district were scrapped last month when a lease could not be worked out for a warehouse property near Wild Wing Cafe.

Now, Pap Datta, a Forsyth County resident and former Hewlett-Packard executive, has his eyes set on a 19,000-square-foot building in the Chicopee Mill industrial area off Atlanta Highway.

“We really feel fortunate because I think one door closed and another one opened for us at Chicopee Mill,” Datta told the planning board.

In fact, Datta has already placed his bets on the site. He signed a lease last month.

If the City Council gives its approval in April, the brewery will occupy a former Johnson & Johnson administration building, which has been vacant for many years.

Datta will also need brewing licenses before production can begin. But without further delays, Datta said he hopes to have the brewery open and operational by June.

The brewery will offer tours and tastings, and core offerings will include various blondes, ales and lagers.

Datta said he will retain the architectural integrity of the building, but will also make a “significant investment” in renovations.

“It does need a lot of extensive work inside,” Datta told The Times last month, but added the building has a great layout and presents many options for future growth and expansion. “We will probably have the most beautiful brewery building in the state of Georgia.”

Datta also said he believes the new site can act as a bridge between downtown Gainesville and the many multicultural businesses along Atlanta Highway, helping to “pull it all together.”

Datta had received a special use permit from the city to operate at the midtown location, though it did come with some pushback.

Councilmen Bob Hamrick and George Wangemann voted against the brewery out of concerns about its name and intent.

But the brewery did receive support from local residents, and Datta said giving back to the community is a big part of his business plans.

He and his partners foresee hosting charity and fundraising events one day, and hope to rejuvenate the legacy of Chicopee Mill.

Datta supports the passage of a proposed state bill that would ease restrictions on the sale of alcohol at breweries.

Brewers want to be able to sell directly to the public, but currently can only provide tours and tastings.

Georgia is just one of five states with such prohibitions. The Peach State ranks 47th out of 50 states in the number of craft breweries operating within its borders.

City Council approved a resolution earlier this month supporting the bill.

Now Datta needs council’s approval once more. It’s one of the last major hurdles before the tastings can begin.

“I ask that you approve this because I think it’s great for the community,” he said.

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