South Carolina lawmakers in both the House and Senate adopted what has become known as the Stone Bill this afternoon, effectively loosening restrictions on how brewers in the Palmetto State do business.
The bill — known in the Senate as S. 1230 and in the House as H. 3512 — is now off to be ratified before being sent over to Governor Nikki Haley’s office for her signature.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office was unsure when Haley would actually get the bill.
The bill will allow brewpubs to apply for brewery licenses, which will enable them to serve food while producing an unlimited amount of beer. An earlier version of the bill sought instead to amend the brewpub definition by stretching the state’s production cap of 2,000 barrels up to 500,000.
Brook Bristow, a lawyer with Bradford Neal Martin & Associates who provides general counsel to the South Carolina Brewers Association, said the vote marks a “new day in our state for craft beer.”
“It’s written in a way that benefits our existing craft breweries, but it tells the Stones of the world, the Deschutes of the world, and whoever comes after them, that our doors are open for business,” he said. “We support craft breweries. That’s something we want in this state.”
Julie Cox, executive director of the South Carolina Beer Wholesalers Association (SCBWA), reiterated that they are “very excited” as well, despite early reservations regarding some specific language in the bill.
“We’re very excited. We support the craft brewers and their growth in the state and always have,” she said.
A compromised version of the bill was passed unanimously through a conference committee made up of six legislators from both houses yesterday. The SCBWA had expressed concern that the bill would disrupt the state’s three-tier system, but changed its view.
“Our objection to it in the beginning was it was amending the wrong section in the code,” Cox said
But now, distributors in South Carolina are as excited as the brewers, as Cox said she is looking forward to the governor signing the bill into law, which would take effect immediately.
Yesterday, Sen. Sean Bennett (R ) told Brewbound that the bill, as re-written to take the SCBWA’s concerns into account, was a “win-win.”
“It’s a win for distributors because they’re going to have more beer to distribute,” he said. “It’s a win for the brewers and it’s a win for the consumers.”
The bill was dubbed the “Stone Bill” as it was inspired by Stone Brewing Co., the Escondido, Calif.-based brewery that is actively looking for a location to invest upwards of $30 million to build an East Coast facility, which it estimates may create up to 400 jobs.
Yesterday, officials from Stone issued the following statement to Brewbound after the bill made it out of the conference committee:
“We have not made a decision as to where our East Coast brewery will be located. While we applaud the legislation in South Carolina and any like it, this necessary element is but one of many factored into our decision making laid out in our request for proposal.”
Sen. Luke Rankin, however, was one of the six legislators who voted in yesterday’s conference committee and he referred to Stone as a “steady girlfriend,” saying the bill’s passage all but locked in South Carolina as the state that would land the company’s second brewery.