There are quite a few breweries opening up this year in the Atlanta area, but only a handful are willing to face the daunting task of opening their doors inside the Atlanta city limit. For those who are thinking about taking on this challenge, here are a few tips:
Do you have enough cash?
Unless you are independently wealthy, or come from a family that has done very well for itself, then the answer is probably “no”. Brewing is awesome, and there are always ways to improve the process. These improvements, however, can be very costly, so it is very necessary to have a solid plan in place for what you’ll need and when you’ll need it. The real unforeseen costs will more than likely come from things like the fact that your sewer line doesn’t actually run under the building, or the building that you are looking to move into, which clearly has been used for manufacturing for the last 60 years, is actually only listed for warehousing…which opens the door for a multitude of impact fees. Building problems are common in older towns and Atlanta fits that bill to a tee. The other area that is hard to hedge against is the cost of trying to start a business in a big city. Big cities have lots of departments and, unfortunately in most cases, this slows down the process of starting a business and makes it much more expensive. Before starting down this road, if you can, spend a couple of weeks visiting every department that you can find in the city and talking to anyone you can get time with. This brings us to the second thing.
How is that project timeline looking?
My guess would be that it looks great when sitting in your hands. You’ve done your due diligence, checked every box, crossed every “t”, and dotted every “i”. However, just because you’ve done a great job of laying out a clear path to your goal, that doesn’t mean that others will see it that way. Suddenly, this plan which has been crafted for months lands on the desk of some official, in some office, and whatever date you had down for launch is suddenly a thing of the past and you start hoping that you can at least launch in the same calendar year. This is another side effect of big city bureaucracy and, sadly, there is not much that you can do to plan for it. Your best bet here is to have a plan that is both structured and flexible. Start dates
can will change, and the important part is good execution when the day actually comes. Just don’t get yourself in to a position where you have a big overhead problem before you start production, and make sure you have a little more of item #1 to weather the storm. That last part is very important.
Location, location, location….
Fun fact: in order to be legally allowed to have a brewery you have to first already have a brewery. That is a bit of an overstatement, so here is the run down. In order to file for a state license you have to have your city application in for review (it is a required attachment to the state application). Also required for the city and state applications is a completed federal basic permit. The basic permit requires that you have a location (lease, layout, etc.) and that your equipment is in place (or at least ordered). The federal application takes about 109 calendar days to obtain so there are, at a minimum, four months of rent to budget for, and once you have this federal permit you can apply for the state and city licenses. But, here is the kicker! The city is the one that will have to give you approval to have the brewery in the location which you’ve already invested a great deal of time and money, and if they don’t approve your permit to have a brewery in that location then you are back to square one. Makes all the sense in the world, right?
In summary, if you are looking to start a brewery in Atlanta then do your homework. Get anyone and everyone you can to sign off in advance on what will be required and then hope and pray that it doesn’t change. Plan for a year and a half of extra work, and keep that overhead down. Finally, good luck. It is great deal of work, some necessary and some not, to get a brewery off the ground in Atlanta; be prepared for the challenge.