South Carolina microdistilleries ‘take a shot’ and push for fewer restrictions

Updated: Apr. 8, 2021 at 9:51 PM EDT
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LITTLE RIVER, S.C. (WMBF) - Microdistilleries across South Carolina are working together to lift some limitations on the industry.

They’ve supported a bill that would address hours of operation, limits on sales and food production.

Twelve 33 Distillery in Little River got its name from the date prohibition was abolished in the United States.

The microdistillery is looking forward to another date when the Microdistillery Parity Act passes in the state of South Carolina, but they’ll need a little help from lawmakers in Columbia for that to happen.

“We opened in April of 2019, so we’re just about to hit our two-year anniversary,” said Kevin Osborn, owner of Twelve 33.

Osborn says he and his wife had to choose between Scottsdale, Arizona and Little River, South Carolina as the two final destinations to open their own microdistillery.

They settled on Little River because of the lack of microdistilleries between Wilmington and Charleston.

“With the Grand Strand growing like it is, both from a tourism standpoint and locals,” said Osborn. “It’s a perfect market for us to have set up shop.”

Osborn says the only thing keeping it from being absolutely perfect is the long list of laws and restrictions on microbrewery operations in South Carolina.

“We’re just trying to get some of those restrictions loosened so we’re more on parity with people selling beer and wine,” said Osborn.

He also says his customers are often shocked when he tells them about the laws that were enacted in 1976.

A few of those include:

  • Microdistilleries have to close by 7 p.m. They must also be closed on Sunday.
  • They can also only serve 3 ounces of liquor per customer, which roughly equates to only a cocktail or two.
  • They can’t have a kitchen, which limits the food they can serve.

“Most people are understanding,” said Osborn. “They recognize it’s out of our control, but it would be enormously helpful for us from a profitability standpoint as well as the customers really enjoying their experience here to have those laws loosened up a bit with what we’re asking for.”

Twelve 33 teamed up with about a half-dozen other microdistilleries to bring the issue to lawmakers’ attention.

Osborn says the bill has gotten bipartisan support, but it hasn’t gotten very much attention in the jam-packed legislative session.

Still, he’s hopeful within the next year they’ll be able to stay open a little later and sell more of their own product to their customers.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed we’ll get it through this session,” said Osborn. “If we don’t get it through this session, then yeah, we’re confident we’ll eventually get it through.”

The bill was introduced in both chambers this session, but it’s moved slowly as other bills in the Statehouse drew more attention.

It’ll need to pass one of the chambers by Saturday, otherwise, Twelve 33 may have to wait till next year.

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