New legislation that will soon be introduced in the SC Legislature aims to not only ease restrictions on brewpubs currently in operation, but also attract larger national breweries to the Palmetto State.
Under current state law, brewpubs – those establishments that focus on producing their own beer in-house and serving food – are limited in how and where they can sell their product, as well as how much they can produce in a given year. Brewpubs are not authorized to sell their beer off-premises or in any format other than growlers filled on site. Brewpubs are also limited to producing 2,000 BBLs per year. However, since they are treated like restaurants, there is no cap to on-premises consumption as with the breweries, which are limited to 48 ounces per person per day
Legislation that will be introduced next week seeks to change that, and in the process open the doors for much larger breweries to open up shop in the state.
The bill will address the following:
- Increasing the maximum output for a brewpub from 2,000 barrels per year to 500,000 barrels per year;
- Allowing brewpubs to sell their beer to wholesalers for distribution outside of the establishment, including serving at beer festivals and other events; and
- Permit brewpubs to sell bottles and cans, not just growlers.
Additionally, the lack of a cap for on-premises consumption remains intact.
While the bill would be a massive buoy for brewpubs, which have pushed for years for expanded privileges, it has a bigger focus: Landing a big-name national craft brewer, specifically Stone Brewing Co.
The California-based craft beer juggernaut recently announced it would be expanding its operations outside of the East Coast, specifically looking to open a satellite brewery east of the Mississippi River. While the whole East Coast is more or less up for grabs, South Carolinians have gone gaga over the thought of being the East Coast home of Stone. Lexington, Myrtle Beach and Charleston have all been jockeying for a chance to host the brewery, but current laws wouldn’t allow Stone to operate the way it wants.
This bill, if passed, would change that. Stone plans to open a Stone World Bistro & Gardens – a brewpub-type establishment – which wouldn’t be possible if not for the expanded privileges proposed in the bill. While Stone isn’t the explicit target of the legislation, the prospect of landing a big national business – and some 400 jobs along with it – is certainly something on the minds of legislators.
That said, the bill has an uphill fight. (What legislation in SC involving alcohol doesn’t?) The current legislative session ends in June and the bill is being introduced pretty late in the game, so if lawmakers want to get it passed, they’ll have to work quickly. However, the Legislature showed last year it’s capable of working things out as they did pass the Pint Bill at the 11th hour. And if it doesn’t pass before this summer, it will have to be re-introduced all over again next session. It is very like this bill will pass, but it’s just a matter of when and whether it’ll be enough time to land Stone, which plans to begin construction on its new facility this year.
Will South Carolina be home to Stone: East Coast? I personally still think it’s quite a long shot and the chances are slim. But when (not if) this bill becomes law, it will be a huge boost for the great brewpubs throughout the state, and will finally help SC get a leg up in the region in terms of landing a big-name brewery all its own.