Big changes coming to South Carolina breweries

Big changes coming to South Carolina breweries
Published: Jun. 17, 2014 at 10:47 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 18, 2014 at 12:46 AM EDT
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NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - Local breweries in South Carolina are preparing for a big change after the so-called “Stone Bill” passed through the state legislature.

The bill is named after Stone Brewing, one of the largest breweries in the country. Legislators rushed it through after the company announced it wanted to build a brewery east of the Mississippi River. The new brewery could employ up to 350 people and have a $30 million economic impact.

The bill was partially created by the South Carolina Brewers Association.

“The point was to make it a really fair place to own a brewery, to have a business and to keep it on par with most of the country," Jamie Tenny, President of the South Carolina Bewers Association said.

The bill looks at the differences between breweries, which didn’t have a cap on production and didn’t serve food, and brewpubs, which were restaurants that also sold beer but had a cap on production.

Now, breweries can sell food and the cap on output for brewpubs is up from 2,000 barrels a year to 500,000, which is what Stone needed to operate.

Tenny, also a co-owner of North Charleston-based Coast brewery, says she’s looking at having a food truck or food service counter where the company could bring in food from nearby restaurants.

Before Tenny can start though, she and the rest of the breweries in the state have to wait for the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Department of Revenue to review the bill and decide exactly what breweries can do.

"How limited or unlimited is the food? Yes, you can have a full-on restaurant, but a food truck and a food service area, what are the qualifications for that," Tenny said.

She says most of the brewery association’s members aren't ready for a full restaurant.

"All would like to offer some food in some way, so it's just a matter of what's required and then taking it from there and then do what each individual brewery wants to do," Tenny said.

Another big change from the bill is breweries being allowed to sell beers from other companies as well as wine.

"Right now, you come to Coast, you're only having Coast beer,” Tenny said. “But now we can bring in other products, and that's pretty exciting to me as well as wine, which I know nothing about, but again, it's all about options."

Even if the bill doesn't bring in Stone Brewing, which is known for its popular restaurants along with a commercial beer operation, Tenny says it's a win for state.

"Now that the laws are open, you'll see more of those types of breweries looking here anyway, so Stone or not, it really doesn't matter,” Tenny said.

The bill also removes restrictions off 48-ounce and off-premises sales. Stone Brewing said they still haven't made a decision on where to put their new location, but both Charleston and Greenville are competing for it.

The Department of Revenue said it plans to release more information around July 1.

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