SUGAR HILL -- With considerable discussion Monday, the Sugar Hill City Council took a step toward likely allowing wine tastings at places permitted to sell alcohol by package.
At its monthly work session, the council hammered out specifics of an alcohol ordinance amendment it expects to approve at its monthly public meeting Monday. The effort was mainly to accommodate Kroger supermarket's request to hold tastings at its 18-month-old store at Ga. Highway 20 and Suwanee Dam Road.
"If we could do something for Kroger, it'd be a good thing," Councilman Marc Cohen told colleagues including Mayor Gary Pirkle, who has urged for specificity in the amendment.
Since the initial request by Kroger's Atlanta division last month, at issue have been annual frequency of tastings, the cost of a tasting license compared to selling and pouring licenses, the volume of samples, and where separate from sales space tastings could occur.
Kroger requested occasional tastings in a segregated area separated from retail space, in connection with instructional promotion, not as part of the store's core operations. In a glass room off of the sales floor, it proposed guests be allowed to sample a half dozen wines under the guide of company representatives and potentially guest speakers, helping shoppers make sense of the market's dozens of wines.
After examining ordinances of Alpharetta, Roswell, Suwanee, Duluth, Atlanta and Dalton, City Attorney Frank Hartley styled Sugar Hill's tentative ordinance and presented it Monday. It allowed licensees to have free tastings no more than six times annually for no more than two hours each, with guests consuming a maximum of four two-ounce samples, and bottles opened only by employees.
An annual fee of $100 for a tasting license, in addition to $1,500 licenses for wine and beer package sales, also will apply.
The amendment seemed to address concerns of council members, particularly Pirkle, known among the more reluctant to broaden alcohol ordinances.
"I think you've done a good job ... of addressing the things we want to see," Pirkle told Hartley.
Upon initially approaching the council at last month's work session, Kroger representative Thomas Friedheim said 12 to 18 metro Atlanta Kroger stores in about eight municipalities were are being targeted for tastings. He said stores in Sandy Springs, Peachtree City, Dalton and Macon already allow tastings at their stores.
Cohen said Kroger plans to begin tastings this summer.