The so-called Stone Bill took one giant leap to finally becoming law on Tuesday as a favorable compromise was reached among distributors and other involved parties. And if one lawmaker is to be believed, the bill’s passage could all but ensure the West Coast brewery opens its satellite operation in South Carolina.
Tuesday afternoon, the committee gathered for a final vote on the legislation that would allow for expanded rights for brewpubs in the state as well as keep South Carolina in the running for Stone Brewing Co.’s East Coast operation. The SC Beer Wholesalers Association and representatives from Anheuser-Busch/InBev had mounted a challenge to the bill, but when the committee adjourned, a compromise had been reached and the bill moved on to the full House and Senate for a final vote.
Here’s what the reworked bill does:
- The changes to state law will now fall under the section governing breweries, not brewpubs. The expansion from 2,000 BBLs annually to 500,000 BBLs annually still stands, but brewpubs will not be allowed to distribute unless they convert their licenses to a brewery and sign with a distributor.
- However, breweries are now allowed to serve food, which opens the doors for a variety of new rights, including guest taps in the food service portion of the brewery. It’s not yet clear how breweries can add a “food service portion” to their establishment or what types of foods must be served to qualify, but a DHEC permit will be required.
- If a brewery serves food, their on-site consumption cap is eliminated in the food serving area.
- Growlers can still be filled and sold at brewpubs, as well as bottles now.
The bill still has to make it through both chambers of the Legislature before becoming law, but all signs point to its passage this session.
What’s more – and take this with a grain of salt – the bill’s passage could be the final thing Stone needs before crowning South Carolina as the home of its new operation. Sen. Luke Rankin, a member of the conference committee, reportedly called Stone “a steady girlfriend” and said Stone will likely choose the Palmetto State should the bill pass. Officials with the SC Department of Commerce also reportedly met with Stone in California recently and left feeling good about their discussion. There’s no word on which site Stone might pick.