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Breweries to keep pouring 

Atlanta City Council this week delayed deciding on a measure that would limit how much free beer Atlanta's two remaining breweries can give away on tours. But, in a victory for the breweries (and for lovers of locally made beer), the limit that's been proposed has more than tripled.

Thanks to an amendment that's been tacked onto the bill, visitors to a brewery inside city limits would be able to drink up to 48 ounces -- about four glasses -- in a three-hour period. That's a significant increase over the 15-ounce limit that Councilwoman Anne Fauver had initially proposed. It's also enough to soften the objections of Greg Kelly, owner of Atlanta Brewing Co., who had worried that cutting off each guest after less than a pint of beer would kill his Friday evening tours -- an essential marketing tool, he says.

"Forty-eight ounces would be good," he said after City Council voted to send the measure back to committee. "That's certainly enough beer for anybody to drink over a three-hour period."

For years, Kelly and his main competitor in Atlanta, Sweetwater Brewing, have conducted tours that include free tastings. (A third brewery, Dogwood Brewing, also conducted weekly tastings until it closed last month.) But Fauver has said such giveaways without a permit are against city law; her measure, she says, would bring them into compliance.

The permits would also cost each brewery $2,250, which is the same amount wineries must pay to operate a tasting room, even though there aren't any wineries in Atlanta. Even if there were, state law permits wineries to sell their product on-site, while breweries don't have the same privilege.

Freddy Bensch, co-owner of Sweetwater, says breweries already pay fees to the city, state and federal government to do business. "Why should we be forced to pay another one in an industry that's already struggling?" he says.

City Council is expected to revisit the measure within a month.

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