Athens, Georgia: Booze-related businesses boom

on 03/03/11 at 10:38 am

Industry

For David Zwart, owner of Clocked restaurant, the decision to move from Portland, Ore., and open his business in Athens was based largely on familiarity.

“I was just one of those people who followed R.E.M. down here when I was younger,” he said. “I had worked at the 40 Watt for about seven years. I just knew the location very well, and I knew it was a good place for a restaurant.”

And since Zwart decided to stop serving alcohol at Clocked, he said he feels his business is better than ever.

“We served for about eight years of our history, and we just recently stopped a couple of years ago,” he said. “It just felt right for us at the time. It’s just expensive for our restaurant to serve alcohol, and we had to make a decision on whether it was possible for us and whether it was worth the trouble.”

But Zwart’s decision is unusual, considering the growth businesses connected to alcohol in Athens are experiencing.

Jobs in beer, wine and liquor stores and in bars grew by approximately 20 percent between 2007 and 2010, and are expected to grow by 55 percent by 2015, according to a report by the Athens-Clarke County Economic Development Foundation. National jobs in the same industry are only expected to grow by 3 percent, and state jobs are expected to decrease by 1 percent.

In addition, there are nearly 140 restaurants, bars, clubs, bonding companies and other businesses connected with alcohol within two miles of the Tate Center, according to Red & Black counts.

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