Progressive Craft Beer Proposal Stalls In South Carolina

A legislative proposal that would have benefited South Carolina’s craft brewing industry has stalled in a positional standoff between brewers and the state’s distributors.

Here’s what we know …

“A state Senate hearing on the proposed changes to South Carolina’s craft beer laws was canceled Thursday after representatives of craft breweries, retailers who sell alcohol and the companies that distribute their product for sale failed to reach a compromise,” according to The State.

Brewers contend that the current state law “holds them hostage to wholesalers, making it extremely difficult to break contract while distributors control the price and volume of their beer sold to retailers.”

While wholesalers argue that it would “would undercut their business and give breweries unnecessary advantages in the market.”

According to The State, the failed proposal would have instituted a number of changes including…

  • Allow breweries to open standalone taprooms, where they could serve beer without having to brew on-site or host a tour of the permitted facility.
  • Remove the 288-ounce limit on how much beer customers can buy from a brewery to go. That’s the equivalent of a 24-pack case of 12-ounce cans.
  • Let breweries transfer beer between facilities without having to go through a distributor that charges a mark-up.

Lesley Donehue, Frothy Beard Brewing

Lesley Donehue, an owner of Charleston’s Frothy Beard Brewing Company, who had been part of the negotiations, took to Facebook Live to explain that things broke down when wholesalers balked over the issue of allowing breweries transfer beer between their own facilities without having to go through a distributor.

“They want their cut,” Donehue explained via Facebook Live, “We literally have to sell it to them and then buy it back from them at a 40 to 50 percent markup. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Thursday’s breakdown between the brewery advocates and distribution and retail representatives means that advancing this proposal from the State Senate to the House before the April 10 deadline means that the chances of this legislation becoming law this year is a longshot.

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