Haley signs Stone Bill into law

By Ashley Boncimino
ashleyb@scbiznews.com
Published June 3, 2014

A landmark beer bill aimed at loosening restrictions on craft breweries will take effect July 1 after Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill Monday. The law, which passed with almost unanimous support last week, would eliminate production limits on breweries and allow them to serve food, offer products from other breweries and serve more than three pints of beer per customer per day.

Gov. Nikki Haley on Monday signed into law a landmark beer bill that eliminates production caps on breweries and allows them to serve food and host visiting taps. (Photo by Habrda via Shutterstock)

Gov. Nikki Haley on Monday signed into law a landmark beer bill that eliminates production caps on breweries and allows them to serve food and host visiting taps. (Photo by Habrda via Shutterstock)

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There is still some uncertainty about what breweries need to do to be approved for food operations through the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, however.

“Part of it is we’re going to have to see DHEC or the (Department of Revenue) interpret the new statute and see what that’s going to mean for everybody,” said S.C. Brewers Association General Counsel Brook Bristow. “It’s open to interpretation, to be honest.”

Under the previous Pint Law, breweries are limited to serving three pints of beer per customer for on-site consumption. Once the bill takes effect, this limitation would not apply to breweries through their food service operations, though if they choose to have an additional tasting room the limitation would still apply there.

“This is one of the fastest bills that I’ve seen go through any arena, and it seemed to not get nearly as much resistance,” said Greenville-based Thomas Creek Brewery owner, brewmaster and Brewery Manager Tom Davis. “The Pint Bill itself took three or four times longer to get through … that in itself speaks volumes about how far we’ve gone in a very short period of time.”

Spartanburg-based RJ Rockers and Thomas Creek have already expressed interest in offering food service to take advantage of the new law.

“Right now, the only thing we can serve in our brewery is RJ Rockers beer, and with the new language, it would give us the ability to be in the food and beverage business if we so choose,” said RJ Rockers co-founder John Bauknight. “At some point in time we’ll do everything we need to do in order to have visiting taps and wine. We’ll figure it out.”

Some brewers, such as Myrtle Beach-based New South Brewing Co., may not take advantage of the law because of the added cost and complication of offering food.

“It’s a great step for S.C. breweries, but maybe it’s more for breweries that are opening or moving here,” said New South brewmaster and owner David Epstein. “Never say never; things may change, but … right now, it’s kind of a daunting task to think about.”

The bill was initially aimed at drawing San Diego-based craft brewer Stone Brewing Co. to the Palmetto State after the brewer sent out a request for proposals for an East Coast restaurant and brewery.

Legislators and representatives from the S.C. Beer Wholesalers Association and the S.C. Brewers Association had reached a compromise last week on the language of the bill, which would initially have altered the limitations of brewpubs instead of breweries.

“The wholesalers compromised with what we wanted to do, and we would not have been able to get the bill passed if they had not cooperated,” said Bauknight. “It’s a huge thing for our state, for large and small breweries.”

Governor Haley's office did not give comment in time for publishing.

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