Cedartown City Seal

Cedartown officials seeking just the right mixture of ingredients to potentially draw new business within the city limits by making updates in local laws to court a new businesses to move within the city limit.

Changes to the alcohol ordinance are being proposed after legislation was approved earlier this year and signed by Governor Nathan Deal to allow direct sales of malt beverages to customers from microbreweries and wineries, and Cedartown is hoping to be one of the first cities in the state to update their local law and take advantage of new conditions in the state.

Currently, Cedartown's legal framework around alcohol is all about serving and selling beverages. Now with the new state law, the city wants to implement amendments to the ordinance to allow for microbrewers, brewpubs owners or wineries to operate within the city. It's been the job of assistant city clerk Edward Guzman to learn about the new legal guidelines and craft a proposal for the city commission to implement not only to come into update the ordinance, and also as a way to attract those kinds of businesses into the downtown area.

Guzman explained the proposed changes to commissioners during their August work session, and how by setting fees in the mid range of what other cities are charging get those breweries or wineries to locate in Cedartown.

The new additions to the alcohol ordinance will portentially govern through the definitions provided in the state law in several area, from how many barrels of beer or wine a brewery, microbrewery or winery can sell directly to the public, to where those facilities can be located.

Specifically, it outlines that only a portion of the total number of barrels that can be produced each year at one of the three facilities is below 10,000 in each case for either wholesale or direct sales distribution, and applies fees via the alcohol ordinance to operate the facilities.

The idea is that to attract the smaller brewpubs into storefront areas since they are essentially a combined restaurant and brewery by definition of the amendments, and get the larger brewers or winemakers to invest in building or purchasing a facility in industrial areas.

So for instance, a brewpub could open in commercially-zoned areas of Cedartown like in an empty storefront on Main Street, or one of the commercial properties along North Main, East or West Avenues, or if the scale of the facility is larger there could be need for it to go into an industrial property instead, such as in the industrial park of West Avenue, or the Northside Industrial Park off the Highway 27 bypass.

In any case, before brewers or vintners would be allowed to operate, they would be required to first meet a number of building codes necessary to ensure the safety of any facility that looked to operate in Cedartown.

They will also be required to pay a proposed $750 fee to operate a brewery, brewpub or winery within the city limits. That is if Cedartown City Commissioners don't propose changes to those fees before the amendments to the alcohol ordinance are approved.

Additional fees apply for the operators of brewpubs under the current proposed changes to the amendment. Brewpubs would have to obtain first a license to make their in-house beers, and then would also require a pouring license for the beer, wine and liquor if they chose to provide a full range of beverages to their customers.

Those operating a microbrewery but also needs larger space would also have to purchase a license for both facilities if they chose to operate a brewpub storefront and a larger brewing operation elsewhere, according to current language changes being proposed to the alcohol ordinance.

So you couldn't operate a storefront to sell wine and cheese, for instance, and then make wine off-site under the same license.

"The license only applies to the facility where the product is being made," Guzman explained during the meeting.

However, they won't have to fill out multiple applications in order to get all of the licenses, and have each one approved in due course by the Commission, who has the final say on who gets alcohol licenses within the City of Cedartown.

Guzman said that he's working out the details of how to rework the application to make those who want to operate a brewery, brewpub and winery don't have to fill out paperwork for each application they make, and thus will also save the city time on background checks when applications are being processed.

Also of note is how Brewpubs fall into dual rules for how they can market their product to customers as well. Guzman explained that their businesses will have to split how they handle distribution, and explained that when it comes to a traditional alcohol versus food sales split of revenue, they'll have to maintain that requirement.

When it comes to marketing to a wholesale distributor, someone like Eagle Rock who would put the beer into stores through their network of contracts with retailers, the alcohol-to-food ratio doesn't apply.

Those fees for brewing beer and making wine would be set in place for the time being to attract potential businesses into Cedartown, but if Commissioners found that too many have moved into the area and more wanted to come, they might in the future choose to increase those fees.

They also wanted to ensure that a balance was in place between the costs of the fee to attract businesses, but make it high enough to ensure that whoever wants to open an establishment were "responsible enough to not cause any problems in the long term," as city Commissioner Dale Tuck said during the Aug. 7 work session over the issue.

The amendments aren't set in stone yet. Commissioners wanted to look at options for the fees to encourage potential owners to invest in Cedartown and Polk County as a whole, but also wanted to ensure they weren't paying too much and were overburdened with fees. They also wanted to ensure that zoning requirements would be kept in mind as well.

Guzman said the tweaks to the amendment won't be done in time for a first reading during the August commission meeting, but likely they will be in September.

After the tweaks are completed, the amendments will likely come before the city commission during their September session, with a final vote on whether they would pass in October.

If approved Cedartown will be one of the first communities in the state to change their alcohol ordinance to reflect the changes in state law made when legislators passed Senate Bill 85.

S.B. 85 allowed for a change in the state's law controlling alcohol to allow for brewers and distillers to market their goods directly to consumers. It's a first in the state's history, which has traditionally sought to limit alcohol distribution.

On Sept. 1, the law officially goes into effect and allows for customers to take home a limited amount of alcohol from either a brewery or distillery.

Previously, the state had a tiered system for alcohol distribution which only allowed manufacturers to sell to wholesalers, who then in turn sold to retailers and then on to consumers from stores. It's one of the last states in the country to allow for limited sales to go into effect.

Under the new system, patrons of a brewpub or visitors to a brewery or winery will be allowed to purchase a limited amount of alcohol while on tours or following a meal in a microbrewery's attached restaurant.

The new rules the city is proposing won't cover any distilleries which might seek to move into the city limits, and no fees have yet been established for such facilities.