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Gov. Nathan Deal signs watered-down craft breweries bill
Gainesville brewery happy for what was passed but wished for more
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Gov. Nathan Deal has signed a watered-down bill allowing craft breweries to let customers take home as much as 72 ounces of beer, or the equivalent of a six-pack, but only as a “souvenir.”

The legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Atlanta, said Wednesday that Deal had signed a version of SB 63 that permits customers to take home beer from craft breweries — but not as much as brewers wanted.

Ashesh Banerjea, chief financial officer and partner with Left Nut Brewing Co. in Gainesville, thanked the governor for signing it but said “it’s not exactly what we had hoped for.”

“We feel that craft breweries — being small businesses — that we are being particularly singled out in terms of rigorous rules,” he said, noting the bill is a step in the right direction.

The new law allows breweries to charge what they want for a tour, which can include beer as a free souvenir, within limits: 36 ounces to be consumed on premises and 72 ounces to take home.

Banerjea said the Gainesville brewery, which is on schedule to open in July, plans to offer the amount of alcohol the bill allows, though they haven’t determined the details and pricing yet.

At first the bill proposed allowing craft brewers to sell directly to consumers, but that notion didn’t go far. Georgia’s Prohibition Era ban on in-house sales by local breweries has been staunchly defended by wholesalers.

“Retailers and distributors didn’t see this as a benefit to them,” Hill said. “They were suggesting it was going to hurt them. My whole point was it was not going to hurt them but help everyone involved, specifically craft brewers. There are about 42 of them.”

The original bill would have allowed consumers to drink 72 ounces on site and 144 ounces “to go, even though every other establishment” has no legal limit.

He said his view is that “the establishment and the individual should be responsible for how much they can consume.”

Hill said though it’s not what he proposed, “We’re glad to get this done.”

“We know it’s difficult to get any legislation passed, much less legislation that’s going to have the perception of changing things that have been done for a long time,” he said.

His goal was to increase revenue for small businesses, which will happen even though they’re technically giving beer away, he said.

“There is no set price for a tour, and they can give beer away,” he said, adding that Georgia is one of five states that don’t “allow craft sales.”