Buckhead’s NPU-B has offered preliminary support for a change to restrictions on sales of packaged beer and wine along Peachtree Road and Peachtree Street.

The proposed exemption to the distance requirements between single family neighborhoods and beer and wine retailers would apply only to shopping centers with more than 75,000-square feet of retail space and frontage on Peachtree Street or Peachtree Road. Restrictions on liquor sales would not be changed.

The move would most immediately have an effect on Buckhead Square Shopping Center at Piedmont and Peachtree roads, where a wine merchant is currently blocked from taking over the space formerly occupied by the Container Store.

The proposed change to the alcohol licensing ordinance is still in the conceptual phase. The proposal must be officially filed by Atlanta City Council before being brought back before Peachtree Place residents and NPU-B for another vote.

Attorney Kevin Leff, who has petitioned exemptions to the ordinance for a number of retailers and supermarkets along the Peachtree Corridor, told members of the NPU-B board on April 2 that current restrictions on beer and wine often prohibit retailers from setting up shop in properties where they make the most sense.

The reason, he says, is the reliance on straight-line distances from single family neighborhoods, rather than actual walking distances.

“For example,” he told the board, “You couldn’t put a beer and wine store in certain parts of Lenox Mall, because of their proximity to Peachtree Park on the other side of Ga. 400. But actually walking from one to the other would take forever.”

Leff also noted that, of the 10 properties involved in the proposed change, Buckhead Square is the only one without a retailer with an existing exemption. The state-mandated distances between packaged alcohol retailers, he said, mean one of these stores would have to close before another could open.

“To me, this sounds like you’re bringing us up to speed with the liquor-by- the-drink requirements in that same corridor,” said Bob Stasiowski, who heads NPU-B’s Public Safety Committee. “Right now, there’s a Peachtree Road exemption for this very same thing [as relates to] liquor by the drink.”

Abbie Shepherd, development and transit chair for NPU-B, cast the only vote against the proposed change. She expressed concern over the implication that the current distance requirements fail to account for the disjointed nature of Buckhead neighborhoods.

“For a long time the city has worked to become more connected on foot,” she said. “We’re going to go back to reconnecting those neighborhoods.”

Leff contends the change is necessary because beer and wine sales are no longer the exclusive domain of large supermarkets and liquor stores. “We’ve seen more and more concepts come along that wouldn’t traditionally sell beer and wine, and the idea is to attract these varying uses into these large retail centers where they make the most sense.”

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