Pint Bill gutted by Senate committee

scbrewers

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.”

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15 thoughts on “Pint Bill gutted by Senate committee

  1. Question: besides the ridiculous insurance requirement, were the rest of the changes that damaging to the bill? Seems like in spite of the Senators’ obvious lack of understanding of what “sampling” means, 48+16 is still 64 so that didn’t turn out so bad.

    But the insurance part, good lord…

    • It’s still pretty unclear until the language of the amendments is released. But the cap on how much you can purchase to try – tastings, pints, whatever – is now capped at 48 ounces, and only 16 ounces can be beer above 8 percent ABW. So, theoretically, you could have two pints of beer below 8 percent and one above and you’d reach your max, or three of below 8, or four 4-ounce samples and two pints … it’s confusing.

      But where it gets really confusing is the “sample” bit. The senator who proposed that got so hung up on why “sampling” and “purchase” were both in the bill if you were buying a beer and not sampling a small amount. (Apparently he thinks samples are free now.) So he proposed the 16-ounce cap on free “samples,” which apparently are separate from the beer you can purchase. So, yeah, it seems as if you could still try four samples and then buy three pints on top of it? Or maybe it’ll turn out differently? It’s all really confusing at this point.

  2. I swear man, it’s almost like they needed some basic pictures on posterboard to help them get the basic ideas across… Acceptable would have been just lowering to 48oz, you could kind of see Bennet concede that (and not 32oz like someone else suggested, bravo), but everything else just made it much worse.

    • Having watched the whole thing, I applaud Bennett for putting up such a good fight. He certainly knows his stuff and was exhausted by having to answer such stupid questions. He clearly got to a point where he was so frustrated and wanted to say, “Seriously, guys. This is not that complicated.”

  3. How does this insurance web compare to the insurance premium mandate for an businesses that serve alcohol in restaurants and bars? It would seem that it is a measure left intentionally vague. I think the real question now is how this will impact the ability for new breweries to start-up and the smaller breweries to stay open. Looks like a brewery killer to me.

    • To the best of my knowledge, bars and restaurants aren’t required by law to purchase any certain amount of insurance. Surely their owners will pick a sizable plan and enough to cover potential liability, but there’s nothing on the books that says they have to buy X amount of insurance.

      Having talked with the owners of small and upcoming breweries after the vote, there’s a mix of anger and trepidation. Some said they wouldn’t be able to open tasting rooms; others said they’d be fine. I think it’s all conjecture at this point until the language of the amendments is released.

    • I’m not positive, but I don’t believe there are any. Then again, I can’t find anything in the proposed bill outlining the the original $1 million required, so it may be outlined in another law.

  4. The $1 mil/person sounds like an unreasonable burden to be placed on a business particularly if that burden does not apply to other alcohol serving establishment (eg bars). Probably easily contested in court (Note: our legislature has a *long* history of crafting poorly written laws that are regularly contested and usually thrown out by the courts).

    • I think on the surface, it’s intentions are good. But the senator who proposed it and the people that voted for it don’t realize how hard it will likely be for breweries, especially the small ones – which are the majority in SC – to afford such coverage. It’s still unclear exactly how it’ll be implemented or what number it will be tied to. It could all end up being a lot worse than previously thought, but for now, it’s looking like a rough road ahead unless something is changed.

      • I didn’t get a chance to watch… who are the representatives that are insisting on this insurance clause?

  5. Pingback: Opining on pints: My thoughts on the Pint Bill so far | Drink. Blog. Repeat.
  6. Pingback: South Carolina Senate committee adds restrictions to proposed “Pint Bill” | BeerPulse

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