You might remember not long ago that we looked at what it would take to land either Stone Brewing or Deschutes Brewery as both look to expand to the east coast. (https://beerofsc.com/2014/03/05/stone-and-deschutes-can-south-carolina-land-them). Now, most laugh this off and think that there is no way that South Carolina could ever hope to land either of these breweries or any other large brewery looking to expand east. And in the past, that has certainly been true. However, that is not the case any longer. Or at least it won’t be soon. Hope is on the horizon for South Carolina.
A team from the Department of Commerce and the South Carolina Brewers Association has been working extremely hard to open the doors for Stone, Deschutes, and any other brewery looking to move east (as well as to improve the existing laws for South Carolina breweries and brewpubs). Now, whether this hard work will pay off remains to be seen. After all, Stone and Deschutes could pass on South Carolina. And in the past, several breweries looking to move east have done so. But, such a decision will be a little harder this time, because South Carolina is about to kick down the regulatory door. How?
For lack of a better term, let’s call it “The Stone Bill”. You’ll recall that Stone has made it clear what they want to do:
“Our operations facility will feature a full-production brewery, packaging and distribution operations with various administrative support which will serve to produce beer to be distributed in the Midwest to East Coast Boundaries as well as for export. Our World Bistro & Gardens, retail and potential other operations will follow. . . . Once developed, the World Bistro and Gardens outside area will be beautifully landscaped where visitors will be able to enjoy craft beer, dine, and enjoy our gardens….”
Under South Carolina’s current regulatory scheme, such an operation is illegal. But, the Stone Bill would make this possible. Let’s talk about how it works.
Do you remember when we discussed the South Carolina law of brewpubs? You can view that here: https://beerofsc.com/2014/01/22/south-carolina-beer-law-102-brewpubs/
Ok, now forget all of that. To make Stone or Deschutes or someone else who runs a brewpub or restaurant a possibility, the law of brewpubs is about to change. And a big change it is. Here is the breakdown:
- It will increase the amount of beer that a brewpub can change from 2,000 barrels per year to 500,000 barrels per year so as to accommodate large breweries with restaurants.
- Like breweries, it will allow for sales to wholesalers and exporters of kegs, cans, and bottles.
- It will allow bottles and cans to be sold on site. Currently, only bottles are allowed. Although, nobody does this.
- It keeps the current rules in place for on-site consumption. Meaning, there’s no limit like the Pint Law.
In short, this might be the most progressive piece of beer legislation to ever come out of South Carolina, if not the South. This might even be the most progressive piece of brewpub legislation ever written in terms of barrels of beer to be produced. In terms of what brewpubs are allowed to produce nationally, this would put South Carolina well over the top. This sends a signal to national breweries that South Carolina is open for business. But, there is a problem. Time.
Session for the legislature ends in June. And this is the last year of the session, so the bill would not carry over. In other words, to get it done this year, the bill would have to make it through both houses before session ends. It might sound improbable, but with the potential for hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, there is support to get this done now. Whether that will happen or not remains to be seen.
State government officials are now big believers in craft beer and its economic benefits. If it doesn’t get done this year, then there are indications that it would pass next session. While that might be too late for a Stone or Deschutes, it wouldn’t be too late for the next Stone or Deschutes or other entities in South Carolina. And there will be more.
Remember, that if passed, this bill benefits South Carolina brewpubs now. All existing South Carolina brewpubs would finally be able to distribute their beers and attend beer festivals. These are things that brewpubs have been wanting for a long time. It would also allow them to grow their businesses, hire more workers, and expand production.
I’ll post the bill as soon as it hits the legislature’s website. Like the Pint Bill, Senator Sean Bennett of Summerville will be a sponsor in the Senate. Derham Cole and Jim Merrill will be the lead House sponsors.
UPDATE: You can now read S. 1230 right here: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/query.php?search=DOC&searchtext=brewpub&category=LEGISLATION&session=120&conid=7527904&result_pos=&keyval=1201230&numrows=10