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SC lawmakers consider bill to grow craft beer industry

There are 129 breweries across the state generating $861 million every year.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Amid the rapid growth of South Carolina's craft beer industry, lawmakers are considering changes they say will remove hurdles for businesses. 

River Rat Brewery in Columbia has been pouring pints since 2013. 

“With the craft beer boom in the last five years, we really had to change what we do here and adapt to what the market is asking for," said Director of Sales Tony Brown. 

There are 129 breweries in the state, pouring $861 million into the economy every year and brewing 128,0000 barrels of beer each year.

“With more breweries opening in South Carolina, that's more money that we’re keeping here and less we’re having to bring in from Georgia, North Carolina, or Florida," said Brown.

In hopes of boosting the industry even more, a Senate panel advanced the "South Carolina Craft Beer Economic Development Act" on Tuesday. 

The proposal would let breweries transfer beer between facilities without having to go through a distributor. Under current law, if a brewery wanted to transfer beer between its locations, it would have to sell the beer to a distributor at one location and buy it back at another.

Under current law, brewers cannot sell kegs on-site because they exceed the legally allowable volume. If the proposal becomes law, brewers could sell kegs to people for a party or wedding.

It would also allow breweries to sell and deliver up to 2,0000 barrels of beer to license retailers and allows them to serve beer at special promotional events. 

"With our proximity to Williams-Brice, of course, we would want to go out there and do some tailgating stuff or promotional stuff," Brown said. "If you were getting married and you want a specific type of beer, but only one keg of it, we could do that as well."

Opponents of the bill include distributors, who worry this legislation could cut them out of the three-tier alcohol distribution system in South Carolina. 

“A brewer would simply pick and choose their favorite retailer and service that retailer. With the analogy using we just take a keg across the street, well they would just be taking them to their favorite retailer competing against their wholesaler," said Lance Boozer with the South Carolina Beer Wholesalers Association.

In 2017 lawmakers passed bills that made it legal for breweries to sell liquor and participate in nonprofit events. 

The bill now heads to the Full Judiciary Committee for consideration. 

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