Redeye February 19 2004

Less whine, more beer: For years now, there has been a fight to lift restrictions limiting the sale of beer in Georgia to brews containing no more than 6 percent alcohol. As of Feb. 6, however, HB 645 — which redefines "malt beverage" as containing up to 14 percent alcohol — passed in the state Senate and now awaits approval from Gov. Sonny Perdue. If approved, the legislation would take effect in July.

"High-end brews aren't there to get people drunk faster," says Tom Moore, co-owner of downtown Decatur's Brick Store Pub. "Handcrafted brews may not only be more potent, but more expensive. They're meant to be sipped and savored, so you'll sell less. These beers are like a chef's creation. This is about the right of connoisseurs to appreciate the world's finest craftsmanship," he says.

Some may have you believe trouble is brewing, but unless the equivalent of shooting syrupy wine suddenly becomes appealing, this is no mass-market menace, just an intoxicatingly mature culture waiting to be locally cultivated. To actively campaign, visit www.worldclassbeer.org.

'Street knowledge: The backstreets of late-night Atlanta are known for sometimes being desolate. But danceteria Backstreet Atlanta is famous for the opposite. Many nights, room to move was more prized than a drink in hand. But at least both were available. Now, having been forced by City Council ordinance to operate on an alcohol-free "dance hall" license to retain its extended hours, Backstreet's dancefloor often fills with sound and light but little else.

"We've had to lay off 60 percent of our staff," says manager Pauline Jolly, noting business is mostly confined to the small 4-7 a.m. window after other bars close.

"People came to Midtown because they could end up partying 24 hours," says bartender Larry Vaughn. "Now they go to the local bar where they can walk home. I would say we're down approximately 70 percent of our business."

In response, Vaughn is organizing a rally against what he considers City Council's unethical, if not illegal, measures. Beginning March 16, biweekly meetings will be held until the rally takes place in April.

"I feel City Council has taken business from everywhere but their property Underground Atlanta. ... This is about more than bars, it affects cab companies, distributors, tourism/convention business — people day and night."

According to Vaughn, Backstreet will persevere, even if serving alcohol means closing at 3 a.m. But regardless, he will continue fighting to represent an unrestricted 24-hour lifestyle, which he feels the world is leaning toward and citizens deserve. "The government should not be allowed to go this far into my personal life."

Keep one RedEye open. And send all comments, questions, observations and invitations to redeye@creativeloafing.com.