When Gwinnett’s new major mixed-use developments are complete, guests will be able to walk around with a drink in their hand.
The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners approved amendments to the county alcohol ordinance Tuesday, allowing open container alcohol consumption within the boundaries of “large-scale mixed-use developments.” The county defines “large-scale” as at least 500,000 square feet total with 100,000 square feet of commercial space and 100,000 square feet of residential space.
The move to rewrite county-wide guidelines to allow open-container drinking is unusual for metro Atlanta. Typically these types of laws are approved by municipalities hoping to make their entertainment venues or festivals more attractive. Cities including Duluth and Suwanee already have small downtown open-container districts. But in Gwinnett, the majority of the county is unincorporated, and large developments would need the county’s approval to allow drinks to be carried outside the business where it was served.
Two projects currently underway would easily satisfy the new alcohol ordinance requirements. Revel, a mixed-use development which will be adjacent to the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, is expected to cover nearly a million square feet. The Exchange at Gwinnett, between Coolray Field and the Mall of Georgia, is expected to have about 1,000 apartments and more than 500,000 square feet of non-residential development.
Both projects are also expected to have food halls, which were also addressed in the ordinance changes. Customers will be able to move about food halls in Gwinnett with an alcoholic beverage in hand, as long as that beverage came from a vendor in the food hall. Food halls within mixed-use developments would have no minimum square footage, but those in a purely commercial setting would have to be at least 750,000 square feet for this new alcohol rule to apply.
Planning and Development Director Kathy Holland told commissioners the ordinance revision was intended to adapt to emerging trends and new types of businesses coming to the county. The amendments also include new legal definitions for microbreweries, brewpubs, microdistilleries, farm wineries, tap rooms and tasting rooms. The new definitions help establish clearer legal guidelines for alcohol service; for example, definitions for tasting rooms and tap rooms specify that free samples of beer, wine and liquor can be given in those spaces.
The amendments were approved by a vote of 3-1, with commissioners Jace Brooks, Marlene Fosque and Tommy Hunter voting in favor and Commissioner Ben Ku voting against. Chairman Charlotte Nash was not present for Tuesday’s meeting.
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