Growlers at grocery stores? It could happen soon in Johns Creek

Purchasing a growler full of brew is currently not convenient in Johns Creek.

To get one of these typically 32 to 64-ounce jugs filled with your favorite beer, you’ll have to go to a liquor store that meets city code and specifically sells them. But that could be changing soon, and you may be able to get a growler full of craft booze during your next trip to the grocery store.

City leaders in Johns Creek are considering changes to a city ordinance that would allow growlers to be filled, sealed and purchased at any establishment that has a license to sell alcohol. This includes bars, restaurants and even grocery stores.

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"(Some of) our ordinances are so restrictive," said council member Stephanie Endres at a Feb. 26 meeting. "We're preventing the market from doing what it does best."

The ordinance in question was drawn up in 2008 and last amended in 2009. It required businesses that wanted to sell growlers to have 90 percent of its gross sales in malt beverages and wine. That restricted growler sales to mostly liquor and beer stores.

The ordinance also said that businesses selling growlers must have at least 400 square feet of dedicated space to malt beverages sales.

Proposed changes to the ordinance, presented by the city's community development director Sharon Ebert, would delete that section of the ordinance. Growler sales wouldn't be restricted by square footage or percentages of sales.

The city defines growlers as, “a professionally sanitized container not exceeding 64 ounces in volume to transport draft beer for off-premises consumption.”

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Some cities, such as Washington, D.C.Cary, North Carolina; and Greenville, South Carolina already allow growler filling stations in grocery stores like Whole Foods.

At the meeting, Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker said he was against the heavy restrictions when the ordinance first went into effect.

“… It’s silly to have the restrictions (now). Let the free market decide where I want to buy my growler. And now, this (change to the ordinance) would correct those ills,” he said.

The city council voted to move these proposed changes to a public hearing and then a vote. Johns Creek's next city council meeting is set for March 12. An agenda has not yet been posted.

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