Updated Wed, May 21, 2014 5:43 pm
Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl has approved a TREX liquor license for Fluff Bakery and Catering after a business deal to obtain a liquor permit that had been in safekeeping reportedly fell through.
In March, some members of Athens City Council had stated that they’d heard concerns from citizens regarding a proposed liquor permit transfer to the downtown bakery. Some Council members had wanted a public hearing to be held by the state, however Council voted 4-2 not to request a hearing — a process that could have slowed down the permit process for Fluff.
The liquor license in question had been in safekeeping from the West Side Tavern. If approved by the state, the license would have been transferred to JJ and J on Court, doing business as Fluff Bakery and Catering, located at 8 N. Court St. The license would have been owned by Jessica Kopelwitz and Jeremy Valeda. Fluff Bakery is owned by Jessica and Jason Kopelwitz.
On Monday, Wiehl informed Council that he had approved a TREX license for Fluff last week.
A TREX license is an economic development transfer license that could be transferred from another community if deemed an economic development tool by the mayor. Wiehl has previously approved such licenses for Restaurant Salaam, Zoe Fine Dining and The Over Hang.
As The Messenger previously reported, each community has a quota of liquor licenses allowed by the state, which is based on population. However, a TREX license is outside of the quota system.
Wiehl told The Messenger on Monday that he sees the license as a way for Fluff to expand its hours and hire more employees, which would have a positive impact on economic development downtown.
On Tuesday, Jason Kopelwitz would not divulge why the business deal with the liquor permit in safekeeping fell through. He said that a TREX license is the better option for Fluff in the long run.
“It will serve Fluff well to grow our business and expand our hours,” he said. “We’re turning more into a restaurant that has a bakery. We’ll keep doing the same things we’re doing now, but it will all get folded into table service.”
Since the TREX license process would allow for a liquor license transfer from another community, Kopelwitz said whichever license is obtained likely won’t be as powerful as the one the bakery had been aiming for from the West Side Tavern.
He said a TREX license may not include carryout sales or allow the business to serve alcohol into the wee hours of the morning, but Kopelwitz said that’s fine.
“We’ll be able to do everything we wanted to do, like weekend brunch and dinner service,” he said. “Sometime in the next month or two, we’ll know.”
While all the kinks are still being worked out over the liquor license, Kopelwitz said he still hopes to begin serving alcohol sometime over the summer.
“That very well could happen. If all goes well, we should be able to get that done,” he said.
Fluff Bakery and Catering currently has 17 employees, Kopelwitz said. He said the business hopes to add at least six additional employees once the liquor permit is obtained.
“This will help us raise the pay, and current employees will be sliding into management roles,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of really great employees in place that are ready to take the next step. It’s pretty exciting to be at that point.”
Kopelwitz added that without the TREX license, Salaam and Zoe wouldn’t have been able to grow their businesses into what they are today.
Although there were some concerns expressed about adding another alcohol establishment on Court Street, the Kopelwitzes have stated that they intend to keep Fluff as a family friendly business.
“My vision for what Fluff should be: I always want a 5-year-old kid to be able to smash a cupcake in her face on her birthday, even if it’s at 9:30 at night. That’s the vision we have. We want to stay family friendly anytime we’re open,” Jason Kopelwitz told Council back in March.