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Growler stores clear to offer beer samples
Chip Crawford, owner of Tap It Growlers on McGinnis Ferry Road, talks with customers Tom Ratke, center, and Mark Biehler on Friday afternoon. At Crawfords urging, Forsyth County commissioners voted Thursday to allow beer tastings at stores that sell growlers. - photo by Crystal Ledford

Once five green lights shone on the Forsyth County commission voting board, Chip Crawford was ready to begin offering beer samples at his growler store.

Commissioners voted 5-0 on Thursday night to allow tastings at stores selling growlers, which are typically 32- or 64-ounce containers of draught beer.

Crawford, owner of Tap It Growlers on McGinnis Ferry Road, said he had prepared the store to meet the new regulations in case the ordinance amendment passed.

“I’m ready to go right now,” he said. “We are being destroyed by Fulton County and I need to know exactly how soon I can start doing this. We’re losing business every day.”

Since his store falls just inside the Forsyth County line, Crawford has previously said customers head to Johns Creek or Alpharetta, where they can sample a product before buying a whole jug of it.

He approached the commission in February seeking a code change that would allow him to offer sips and compete with growler stores in nearby Fulton County.

Forsyth County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the commission could make the change, so long as any consumption takes place on a “separate premises,” per state law on package sales.

The ordinance also states that samples are limited to two ounces per glass with no more than eight ounces per person to be served daily.

In May, which was originally scheduled to be the last public hearing, the commission requested to add language to expand the allowable materials for growlers.

The change adds stainless steel, ceramic and non-reusable plastic to the approved materials list, which previously allowed glass only.

The addition also led to the third required public hearing on Thursday.

Chairman Pete Amos thanked the “growler people for putting up with this.”

In other beer news, the commission also held the first of two public hearings on an alcohol ordinance change that would allow breweries.

The proposed addition, which was also prompted by a request, would permit the county to grant an annual license to brewers for $1,000.

Breweries would be able to sell only to wholesalers and directly to retailers or consumers, according to the proposal.

The proposal also states that brewers cannot allow consumption on site except for free samples in accordance with state law.

Tom Brown, Forsyth’s planning director, said breweries would only be allowed in heavy industrial districts, or M2 zonings, according to the unified development code.

The license fee is $500 less than the $1,500 annual cost for sale of beer and wine.

Brown said the cost of enforcement, which drives the fee, is expected to be lower since breweries will not be directly selling the products to consumers.

Two potential local brewers spoke favorably of the changes during the Thursday public hearing.

Nilanjan Datta expected that microbreweries would create a spark in the local food and beverage scene, creating jobs and bringing revenue into the county.

He added that Forsyth’s primary demographics are likely to support this type of industry.

Tim Fahey said the county already allows for brew pubs, but requires that 50 percent of their sales come from food.

“We don’t want to make food,” Fahey said. “We just want to make beer.”