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!

 

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.

Pint Bill passes 1st reading in Senate

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Things have been pretty quite on the Pint Bill front since a compromise was reached on May 9. But Tuesday morning, the bill finally made it to the floor of the S.C. Senate for what turned out to be a successful first vote.

By a vote of 31-1, the bill received a second reading in chamber. That next and final reading is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday. Following that vote, the bill goes back to the S.C. House of Representatives, which must – and very likely will – approve the proposed changes from the version they passed earlier this year. After that, it’s on to Gov. Nikki Haley to sign into law.

No word on how quickly the changes will go into effect if and when the bill becomes law.

Pint Bill compromise reached

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After sweating it out for the past couple of weeks, South Carolina breweries and beer geeks on Thursday finally got a compromise on the state’s Pint Bill.

You’ll recall that a couple of weeks ago, Republican Greenville Sen. Mike Fair placed on objection on the Senate’s version of the legislation at the behest of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The bill couldn’t make it to the floor of the Senate for discussion or a vote until Fair removed his objection, and since last week, Fair, MADD and representatives from the S.C. Brewers Association have been working behind the scenes to work out a compromise.

Thursday afternoon, the details of that deal were finally released. Here’s what they worked out:

  • The maximum individual on-premises consumption cap has been set at 48 ounces. That includes pints and samples. While lower than the 64 ounces originally hoped for, it still means you’ll be able to enjoy up to three pints at a brewery;
  • Brewers will be fined for over-serving patrons. This, included with the original requirement that brewery workers go through DUI and safety training means more security for visitors and non-visitors alike;
  • No beer above 10% ABW (12.5% ABV) can be served as a sample or a pint. You can still buy higher-ABV beers to take home, but you can’t drink them at the brewery.

With that compromise in place, Sen. Fair has reportedly lifted his objection, clearing the way for the bill to hit the Senate floor for a vote. When it gets there, Sen. Sean Bennett (R-Summerville) will introduce an amendment to replace the insurance requirement of $1 million per occurrence and $10 million aggregate.

No word on exactly when the bill will be hit the floor, but it’s safe to say SC beer geeks are breathing a little easier today.

Senator objections hold up Pint Bill progress

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Tuesday, April 30, was by all accounts supposed to be the day for S.C.’s Pint Bill. People in the know told me it would finally hit the Senate floor for a vote, followed quickly by a second vote today and then back to the House for reconciliation. But, if you followed along with my Twitter feed or those of other breweries and individuals, you likely surmised that wasn’t going to happen.

Why didn’t the bill hit the floor? Because within the past week, three separate senators placed objections on the bill. That, in essence, moves the legislation to the back of the line so that unopposed bills can get taken care of before the Legislature gets bogged down in the budget debate. (By Senate rules, the bill becomes marked and the objecting senator must be present during debate or vote. If he or she is not present, there’s not vote.)

Early Tuesday, news broke that Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville; Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson; and Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, all opposed the bill. The response on social media was quick, and before the Senate convened at noon, Bryant and Shealy had both dropped their objections.

I’m working on a piece about the Pint Bill for Columbia’s Free Times this week, so I spent the day contacting Fair, Shealy and Bryant about their objections. Shealy emailed me back almost immediately and wrote the following:

“Although I still have concerns about this bill and the amount of alcohol that can be consumed, my first concern was the insurance regulations that were amended to this bill. I am not certain they are attainable. I am still not certain that breweries were not in a better position prior to this bill than they will be if this bill passes.”

That’s an understandable concern, and once it’s one she realized Sen. Sean Bennett, R-Summerville – the legislator who’s been leading the charge in support of the bill – would propose an alternate amendment, she removed her objection.

Bryant’s objection was much simpler: He just wanted more time to read the bill. He called me late Tuesday and said this:

“I just wanted to have more time to look at it. I had a feeling it was something I would support.”

Again, simple enough. Bryant had actually removed his objection last Thursday, April 25, but it hadn’t been removed for some reason. As a hardline Libertarian, Bryant said he felt no need to tell people how much they can and can’t drink.

But then there’s Fair, who hasn’t returned my calls or emails, or those of other people who have contacted him. Fair is apparently not budging on moral grounds – he’s been described to me as a “teetotaler” – and people close to the bill plan on trying to level with him this week.

I asked Bryant if he knew or understood why Fair objected to the bill, to which he replied:

“Often time, people take their personal opinions and impose them on the role of government. It’s not the government’s role to tell people how much they can and can’t sample at a brewery.”

Take that as you will.

So – and I feel like I’ve beaten this phrase into the ground – where to we go from here? That’s getting harder and harder to say. If Fair doesn’t remove his objection soon, the Pint Bill will have an increasingly hard time getting on the agenda. Bennett told me once the Legislature delves into budget debates, there’s little room for other things before the adjourn in June. Bennett remains cautiously optimistic about the bill’s passage, but he’s hedging his bets at this point. You should contact Fair and let him know why you object to his objection.

As many have said before – myself included – the Pint Bill is not dead yet. But if anything, it’s on its deathbed.