South Carolina craft distillers hopeful new bill would modernize state’s liquor laws

South Carolina News

BLUFFTON, S.C. (WSPA) — Craft distilleries across South Carolina said they are asking for fairness.

Burnt Church Distillery opened its doors about a month ago. Co-Owner Billy Watterson said he was aware of South Carolina’s current laws going in and wasn’t phased.

He’s hopeful there will be some change soon.

“The current laws are a bit repressive. That there’s no equity or no equality for what a brewery can do or a winery can do,” Watterson said.

Wednesday morning a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee an amended version of a bill that supporters said would modernize the state’s liquor laws.

Watterson said, “We should be allowed to be treated like others. There’s nothing new that needs to happen here. This is clearly check the box legislation.”

The bill would allow distilleries to open restaurants on site, increase tasting limits from 3 to 4.5 ounces and expand hours to name a few things.

Watterson said passing this bill would grow the craft distillery industry.

He said, “It would be an enormous amount of money for the state. And more jobs in these locals communities and more exposure for the state from a tourist perspective.”

The Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association of South Carolina sent us a statement in response to Wednesday’s subcommittee vote. Their Executive Director Elizabeth Brogdon wrote, “The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association of SC is grateful to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee for accepting the compromise amendment this morning that would allow the State’s distilleries to operate a restaurant at their production premises. Our intent is, and always has been, to support all of our partners, including the craft distilleries and other small businesses, in their efforts to promote, sell and expand the footprint of their brands. The wholesalers’ role in the 3-tier system allows craft distilleries to get their products to a wider range of outlets with broader distribution throughout the State, region and nation, as their brands grow. We have not opposed their efforts to open a restaurant at their production facility and have worked with the SC Craft Distillers Guild throughout this legislative session, with a goal of crafting a bill that allows them to enhance their business while also maintaining consistency with governing laws, and aiming to protect our retail customers. We certainly want to see all of our industry partners succeed, both producers and retailers alike, as we serve them by moving their products throughout South Carolina for the ultimate benefit of the State’s consumers.”

The bill won’t make this week’s crossover legislative deadline – but Watterson is hopeful it will pass in 2022.

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