Augusta commissioners open to making downtown "brewery friendly"

Augusta commissioners open to making downtown "brewery friendly"

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - It's been almost a year since Augusta jumped on the craft beer trend, by signing off on the city's first micro brewery since prohibition.

Now, one Augusta commissioner wants to see more micro breweries in the downtown area.

If you build it, they will come.

That is according to Commissioner Sean Frantom.

Frantom said, "We've got to make downtown Augusta more of a destination."

He believes it's time for the city of Augusta to do away with an outdated zoning ordinance that only allows owners of micro-breweries to set up shop in industrial areas of town.

Listening intently in the audience was Brey Sloan.

She opened the doors of Riverwatch Brewery back in April.

Sloan said, "We've been told that the commission will never allow a brewery. So I thought I was going to have a fight on my hands so we went early and they were like ''Yeah, that's fine.''

But, with proposed changes on the table that will allow these unique taps to flow through downtown, Sloan wonders how this could now affect her business that was zoned under the current code.

So does Commissioner Bill Lockett.

"We're supposed to be business friendly. But, we also need to be business trustworthy," said Lockett.

Planning and Development Director Melanie Wilson said while the law does allow brew pubs in the area, they have to be in association with a restaurant.

So, a brewery, like Sloan's, that serve beer and give tours, would not have qualified.

Lockett said changing the rules mid-game is a slap in the face to business owners who have invested time and money to provide services in the Garden City.

Be that as it may, Frantom said change is necessary in order for the city to grow.

Officials agreed that the first step in changing to rule will be to hear input from the public and have planning and zoning personnel map out the details of the new ordinance.

"I think we need to do our due diligence and do it right," said Frantom.

The first public meeting to discuss bringing breweries downtown is scheduled for February 2nd.

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