Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gwinnett Loses Wine South, Religious Fundamentalists Suspected

For the last 3 years, one of my favorite things to do in Gwinnett County has been to attend the Wine South wine festival at the Gwinnett Center. For the last 5 years, the event has attracted hundreds of vendors from all over the world, thousands of wine enthusiasts and novices, and brought in a cool million per year for the local economy.

So with much chagrin, I read Bill Osinski's AJC article this morning saying the the wine festival will be moving to downtown Atlanta. The fact that it will be downtown isn't such a big deal. But for a county that is amongst the nation's fastest growing, and for one that is supposed to offer such a great quality of life for suburbanites, this is disappointing news to say the least. Especially when you hear the suspected reasons that founder and fellow Gwinnettian, Dan Thompson, offered:

For example, he said, the permit fees for the 40 or so area restaurants that operated sampling booths have more than doubled in the past three years, from $55 per restaurant to $120.

Also, the county imposed burdensome requirements for portable hand-washing stations for food handlers, then backed down one year, only to reimpose them the next, he said. The banquet halls used for the event already had more adequate restrooms for hand-washing, he said.

And people who submitted winning bids on bottles of wine offered in a charity fund-raiser silent auction were not allowed to take their wine with them when they left the hall, he said. Instead, they were required to make arrangements to pick up the wine some time after the festival and somewhere other than the civic center.

"Jumping through all the hoops was just a nightmare," Thompson said. "We were treated like street vendors selling funnel cakes — maybe even worse."

Thompson said the wine-centered nature of the event might have conflicted with some religious or anti-alcohol sentiments of some people in Gwinnett.

It's not as if Wine South was some gigantic drunken frat party. It was a civilized gathering where vendors could showcase their inventory to grown adults who enjoy wine. If what Thompson says is true, I can't believe they were treated that way.

Along similar lines, Rocky from Rambles by Rock commented on reading in the Atlanta Business Chronicle that a group of business people were going to lobby the state legislature to legalize beer and wine sales on Sundays. The notion is already being opposed by some Republicans who continue to tip toe around their alliances with both the business community and right-wing religious zealots who are offended by what day of the week people buy their alcohol.

I'm guessing that the fundamentalists think they've earned a good mark in St. Peter's book by bringing down Wine South and protecting Georgia's archaic blue laws. I doubt it. Me thinks all they're doing is embarassing themselves and bringing down the rest of us with them.

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