New bill aims to attract big breweries, ease restrictions on brewpubs

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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. Continue reading

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Pint Bill signed into law

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As they say, it’s a great day in South Carolina.

Thursday afternoon, SC Gov. Nikki Haley put pen to paper and officially signed the state’s Pint Bill, immediately putting into effect the Pint Law. Starting right now, every brewery in South Carolina can begin serving up to 48 ounces to an individual.

COAST wasted no time in indicating they’re ready to begin serving pints during tours tonight, tweeting out this photo of lines of branded pint glasses. And Conquest announced opening hours for its tasting room late Wednesday, also indicating that when they law went into effect, they’d immediately being serving pints.

Be sure to find your local brewery’s tasting room hours, get out there and drink up!

 

Pint Bill to become law within days

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One way or another, by this time next week, you’ll be able to walk into a South Carolina craft brewery and order a pint of beer.

Late Tuesday, it was announced that the legislation allowing up to 48 ounces of beer to be served to an individual at a brewery had been ratified and was on the way to being signed by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley. Following that, one of two things will happen: 1) The governor will sign the bill, at which point it immediately becomes law and the changes go into effect, or 2) if she doesn’t sign it, it automatically becomes law in five days.

Haley has said she will sign the bill, and there is no fear of a veto.

While brewery employees will still have to undergo safety training and breweries will still have to purchase insurance, there is a grace period inherent with the bill and breweries can immediately begin serving pints as soon as the law goes into effect.

S.C. House approves Pint Bill, moves on to governor for signature

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For all the hiccups and hurdles South Carolina’s Pint Bill has faced recently, this week has seen the bill fly through the state Legislature. On Thursday, the amended bill successfully made it through the S.C. House of Representatives with a 73-37 vote.

As expected, the bill – which passed out of the Senate on Wednesday – came up against little opposition in the House. Lawmakers concurred with the changes made from the version they originally passed.

It’s fully expected that Gov. Nikki Haley will sign off on the legislation. Once it becomes law, the changes immediately go into effect. She’ll likely sign the bill within the next couple of weeks.

Pint Bill passes S.C. Senate

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After finally making it to the floor of the South Carolina Senate on Tuesday for debate and a vote, the state’s Pint Bill on Wednesday finally passed the chamber with a final vote.

The bill passed its first test on the chamber on Tuesday with a 31-1 vote. Unsurprisingly, the only “nay” vote came from Sen. Mike Fair (R-Greenville). You’ll recall Fair’s objection resulted in negotiations between supports and opponents, which ended in the compromise the Senate eventually passed.

So, what’s next? The bill now goes back to the S.C. House of Representatives, which must approve the changes made from the version they originally voted on. Since there was little objection in that chamber, it’s unlikely the bill will have to jump over any more hurdles. Once the House approves it, it goes before Gov. Nikki Haley to sign into law.

The bill will likely be signed by the end of the month.

Opining on pints: My thoughts on the Pint Bill so far

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As the S.C. Senate Judiciary Committee meeting progressed yesterday afternoon, I could feel myself sinking deeper into my couch. The group of senators – who repeatedly got caught up on the term “sampling,” the ounce cap, the liability issue and more – seemed to be taking issue with the minutiae of the bill. It concerned me, and made me realize the bill wouldn’t pass through as easily as I’d hoped

Then they started landing punches. The maximum consumption amount was decreased by a pint, and then the hefty insurance requirement was imposed, and then the distinction between “samples” and “purchases” was implemented. I was shouting at my computer screen, asking why some senators couldn’t understand such simple language and applauding those who pointed out this isn’t such a complicated issue.

When all was said and done, I felt deflated. I wasn’t the only one. Twitter was chock-a-block with doomsaying, from brewers saying they wouldn’t be able to build tap rooms to consumers saying they should kill the bill at this point. In my haze of anger and confusion, I was inclined to agree that starting from scratch may be the best course of action at this point.

But then I slept on it. I was exhausted from providing the coverage that I did yesterday and answering questions, and I wanted to give my mind some time to breathe before kicking out my feelings. So, with some hindsight, here’s my concise thought on what everyone should do at this point:

Chill.

I understand the gut instinct of everyone invested in this bill is to be angry. We didn’t get what we wanted – that being the original language and intent of the bill – and we’re upset with our elected officials. I get it, but trust me, this isn’t something to rage about.

At this point in the process, the bill is written in pencil, not ink. Your elected officials are still listening to their constituents and forming a stance. It still has to go through two readings in the full Senate. It can – and very likely will – change from what it is now. The amendments made to the bill yesterday are not the final word. There’s still plenty of time to change things for the better. This is not over.

Based on traffic and comments on this site yesterday, there is clearly an impassioned group of beer geeks in this state who want to work as hard as possible to get the best legislation possible on the books. You can and should still contact your senator and let them know why this bill matters to the state, the business community and you. But just because you might be pissed doesn’t mean you should convey any anger.

What you shouldn’t do is be rude, condescending, offensive or bitter. It reflects negatively on South Carolina’s entire brewing community if you act inappropriately toward the people who ultimately have the final word on the bill. This is not the kind of community we are. Complaining to your senator or representative is not going to help this bill at all. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make your voice heard. There’s an easy tool for finding your senator here, and a full list of the S.C. Senate is here. I covered state politics for years and talked with a wealth of senators and representatives. Trust me: Even though you may not think so, your opinion and voice does matter to them.

I stand by my decision yesterday to say the bill had been “gutted” because of the changes made. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration because, to me, I feel the amendments strike right at the heart of the legislation, which is to create an easier path for breweries to dispense their product and make a living. But that doesn’t mean I’ve lost all hope for the bill or think it’s a lost cause. I’ve talked with enough people involved to know there’s constant work going on behind the scenes to get the best bill possible. Right now, people invested in the health and well-being of this legislation are busting their ass to make it as easy to digest as possible.

South Carolina beer geeks should count their blessings. We’re lucky that the Legislature is even taking time to consider such a bill. Other states have it better, but many more have it worse, and the fact this is even something up for debate should be cause for celebration. It wasn’t easy to get the Pint Bill on the radar in the first place, but brewers and beer geeks alike worked hard to show why it matters.

What good comes from giving up now?

Pint Bill gutted by Senate committee

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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.”