The S.C. Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday landed huge blows to the state’s proposed Pint Bill, imposing a hefty insurance requirement and seemingly lowering the maximum an individual can consume on site.
Senators, caught up over the term “sampling” and concerned about the liability increased alcohol consumption could cause, attached a trio of amendments to the legislation, in effect putting a bigger burden on smaller and startup breweries.
Following a 14-3 vote on S. 423 – the so-called Pint Bill – the legislation was amended to change the maximum on-premises consumption cap from 64 ounces to 48 ounces, reducing the amount an individual can drink at a given brewery by one standard pint. Included in that amendment was an additional cap on consumption of beer above 8 percent ABW, limiting higher-alcohol beers to 16 ounces. That amount is included within the overall 48-ounce cap.
An additional amendment, which passed by a 15-3 vote, apparently created two categories of beer for on-premises consumption: samples and purchases. The amount that could be purchased – and sampled on site – remained at 48 ounces. But an additional “sampling” category – which would apparently be given away for free – was also created, capping out at 16 ounces. So, while an individual could still consume 64 ounces of beer in a given day – the original limit – a maximum of 48 ounces could come from beer purchased and a maximum of 16 ounces could come from free samples.
But the KO came in the form of an amendment to require breweries to purchase not the $1 million in liability insurance in the original bill, but $1 million in insurance per person. It’s unclear how that would be assessed – say, if it were tied to maximum occupancy – but it would have to be purchased by both current and future breweries. For larger breweries, it could be less of an issue. But for smaller, startup breweries, it may be a price they just can’t pay.
The bill ultimately passed with a 17-4 vote and now goes to the full Senate with a favorable report.
So, how bad were today’s actions?
“They made a cluster of it,” a source close to the bill told me. “Mandating that amount of insurance is an impediment to small upstart breweries. … Bottom line is that they just made a mess of this bill. The insurance is a killer.”
The legislation is not dead – it still faces two votes in the full Senate and could be changed for the better – but the nuts and bolts face an uphill battle before getting to the governor’s desk.
In short, said my source, “This was not a good day for us.”