DISCLAIMER: This post does not constitute legal advice and is presented for information, education, or entertainment purposes. It is opinion and commentary, and merely attempts to review the alcohol beverage laws and their interpretation to assist businesses (and consumers) in planning. If you have questions, then please speak to your legal professional or the appropriate regulation authority.
TL;DR: SC BREWERY TO GO LIMITS JUST DECREASED TO LIMITS SET IN 2010
Unlike many states during the pandemic, South Carolina didn’t make many regulatory allowances for alcohol businesses. The reasons for this are fairly complex and get into the state’s constitutional powers and the lack of specific regulations as opposed to statutes, which there are plenty of. But, to sum it up, the state could only suspend regulations, not statutes. And for the most part, just about everything involving breweries was in the statutes. But regardless, breweries were at least declared to be essential businesses and were able to be open to the public while following the guidance provided to restaurants. They were also allowed to bring alcohol curbside for pickup.
But, in late 2020, the General Assembly enacted some relief by changing the law to allow breweries the ability to sell up to 576 ounces of beer per person per day for to-go sales. That was a doubling of the prior limit of 288 ounces, which had been the law since 2010. This meant that breweries could sell just short of a sixtel of beer to a consumer. The 2010 law was based on the assumption that breweries would sell using 12 ounce cans, and so a case limit was passed. As the industry has matured, obviously, more breweries use pint sized (16 ounce) cans now, so the 2010 law actually prohibits them from selling a full case of those beers (384 ounces).
While the 576 ounce limit was a dramatic increase over the prior limit, there was a limitation: it was only good until May of 2021. But, the provision ended up being extended for another year until May 31, 2022. Unfortunately, the General Assembly did not further extend the provision this year, or amend it, so as of June 1st, South Carolina breweries are back to the 2010 law which only allows for up to to-go sales of 288 ounces per person per day.
How much is 288 ounces in practical terms? That’s one case (24 cans) of 12 ounce cans. Or eighteen 16 ounce cans. Or just short of a case of 375ml bottles. Or nine 32 ounce crowlers.
If you’re curious, here are the current to-go limits for breweries in nearby states:
Georgia: 288 ounces
Mississippi: 576 ounces
Alabama: 864 ounces
North Carolina: No Limit
While we don’t know how much the increase helped the state’s breweries, it certainly could not have hurt as brewery economic impact has increased, as have openings, although at a slower pace than previously. We don't know what's ahead on to-go sales when the General Assembly comes back in January, but, we do believe that further deregulation is needed to allow these businesses to be competitive with our neighbors who previously had lower limits than South Carolina up until a few years ago.
Brook Bristow is a South Carolina-based lawyer at Bristow Beverage Law, who primarily counsels companies in the alcohol industry on business and employment laws, as well as on compliance, licensing, & intellectual property. You may reach him directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org