Rising liability insurance forcing Lowcountry bars and restaurants to close

A town hall meeting Monday night brought business owners together to discuss the rising cost of liquor liability insurance in the state.
Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 11:07 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2023 at 4:15 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A town hall meeting Monday night brought business owners together to discuss the rising cost of liquor liability insurance in the state, which some say may force them to close their doors.

Hosted by South Carolina Venue Crisis, the meeting brought dozens of Lowcountry business owners together. They say they have seen liquor liability insurance rates rise to new costs recently, risking everything they work so hard for.

The problem goes back to 2017, when a law was placed that requires all bars, restaurants and venues with liquor licenses to buy at least $1 million in coverage.

“I love the state and I would truly hate for it to be in an economic state of emergency because if something’s not done about this, the tourism and the economy, it will take a massive, massive hit,” South Carolina Venue Crisis member Asheton Reid says.

One example shared was the American Legion on James Island where their liquor liability cost went from $20,000 to $60,000 in just one year.

The cost forced the business to raise everything on its menu by 25%.

“Everything is insanely expensive now, and we have done our best not to go up to try to you know, save every dime to make sure we’re not wasteful of our money that’s coming in; but at some point, in order to keep the doors open, you have to make enough money to cover your expenses,” Tattooed Moose owner Jennifer Kulick says.

Two bills in the Senate and House, S.C. Justice Act and S.C. Save Our Venues Act, could possibly change the current law by changing the liability placed on these businesses after someone leaves their establishment.

“It’s kind of life-changing; you go around and you realize that there’s a lot of people connected by small businesses,” South Carolina Venue Crisis member Kynn Tribble says.

Some at the meeting said bars and restaurants should still be held accountable for overserving patrons, but some instances are not fair to the establishment.

Six businesses in Greenville have closed due to the cost of liquor liability insurance, which could be the next reason your favorite watering hole closes.

“Charleston is a restaurant hospitality community; whether you’re eating oysters at Bowens Island, whether you’re going to Halls Steakhouse or Fig, it’s all part of the community,” Kulick says. “It can’t go, they should not take it from us.”

Local businesses are asking anyone who wants their favorite spot to not shut its doors to ask for legislative change to your local and state leaders.