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Posted: September 5, 2013 9:09 p.m.

Sipping on the square

City OKs beer and wine tastings

Wine and beer tastings will soon be allowed in Covington, as the city seeks to modernize its alcohol laws and attract new businesses.

The Covington City Council approved the first reading of two alcohol ordinances Thursday, one that would allow wine and beer tasting licenses and growler beer sales and a second that would allow licensed caterers to sell at events on private property and allow nonprofits to sell alcohol at charity fundraisers.

The ordinances will go into effect after the city approves them a second time.

Wine and beer tastings

The wine tasting law will benefit The Cork Boutique, a wine specialty store planning to open on the square.

Current city ordinances restrict on-premises alcohol licenses to restaurants, hotels and golf courses. If a wine store wanted to classify itself as a restaurant, it would also run into trouble because food and drink establishments have to make a majority of their revenue from food.

The new ordinance allows a business that has an off-premises alcohol license to also get a license for on-premises wine and beer tastings. With the new license, customers would be allowed to have up to 2-ounce samples but would be limited to drinking 8 ounces of wine and beer within a two-hour period.

No alcohol could be consumed outside the premises, as Covington outlaws open containers of alcohol outdoors in public.

Mayor Ronnie Johnston previously said the owner of The Cork Boutique is a longtime resident who wants to invest in the area, and Johnston believes the business would be a perfect fit for the square.

The "growler" is an old concept, dating back to the late 1800s, according to some sources, that is coming back in vogue at breweries and brewpubs. A growler is a bottle that can be re-sealed, allowing a

person to fill up the bottle at a brewery, have it sealed and take it home. The practice prevents brewers, particularly smaller ones, from having to pay to bottle their beer and also allows fresh beer to be consumed in the comfort of the home.

Many growlers are half-gallon bottles, though they come as big as 2 liters; Covington’s ordinance limits the size to 2 liters.The same restrictions on wine tastings also apply to growler beer tastings.

 Selling beer at private events

The city will soon also offer an alcohol beverage-catering license, but only for restaurants and other establishments that already have a license for on-premises alcohol consumption.

Assistant City Attorney Frank Turner Jr. said the event must have a special use permit approved by the city. Any alcohol sales by a caterer at an event would count toward the ratio of food-to-drink sales. The same rules for who can serve alcohol in a restaurant, or hotel or golf course, would apply to a caterer at an event.

 Nonprofit events

The city will allow nonprofit organizations to get a temporary permit two times a year to sell alcoholic beverages at a fundraising event.

Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams asked why the council was pursuing the ordinances to allow the sale of beer at private events and at nonprofit events, and Turner said the message he got from the council was to modernize the city’s alcohol laws. He looked at laws from the cities of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, and Covington’s news laws are very similar.

He said the laws could promote economic development by promoting more special events. Dunwoody and Sandy Springs both allow alcohol to be sold at special events on public property, but Turner did not include that in Covington’s ordinance.

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