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S Carolina quirky liquor laws give sour grapes to wine giant – Washington, District of Columbia

Washington, District of Columbia 2021-04-22 16:48:16 –

Columbia, South Carolina (AP) — The largest winemaker in the United States wants to open a bottling and distribution center on the East Coast …

Columbia, South Carolina (AP) — The largest winemaker in the United States wants to open an East Coast bottling and distribution center in South Carolina, invest $ 400 million, and employ up to 500 people. However, some lawmakers and small businesses are screaming for sour grapes at the request for an open tasting room where the general public can sample wine.

E & J Gallo Winery’s call for tasting rooms in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars is considered a valuable catch for Chester County, one of South Carolina’s poorest regions. California winemakers liken the plan to BMW’s first modest mid-1990s investment in South Carolina. This is one of the state’s largest manufacturing success stories, which currently employs 11,000 people.

But only if, at the request of public tasting rooms, eccentric alcohol law protects small retailers, reminds us of the era of salons, and private clubs and bartenders make drinks in the mini-bottles commonly found on airplanes. Measures were taken slowly through parliament. ..

The bill permitting tasting rooms was barely passed before the deadline earlier this month, and the House Subcommittee passed it on Thursday. This is an important step with only nine days left in the 2021 session.

Winemaker Ron Donojo, vice president, chose South Carolina over Georgia and North Carolina for the East Coast business. Nearly two-thirds of its customers live east of the Mississippi River, so it’s a strategic move to cut costs.

He said the upscale rooms are probably in tourist areas, where groups of about 10 people can get together for about an hour and taste a variety of wines in thimbles. After tasting, each person was able to purchase up to 6 bottles of wine.

“Many consumers will be worried about making the wrong choice, so building these satellite tasting rooms and consumer experiences and brand engagement with consumers is really essential to building a business. I spent a lot of time learning, “said Donoho.

However, the tasting room is where state liquor law comes into play. Liquors in the state cannot buy products directly, but must go through a wholesaler instead. There are 1,000 liquor stores in the state, but no one individual or company can own more than six, often restricted to three different locations.

In 1892, South Carolina almost approved the ban, but instead gave the state exclusive rights to the liquor business. Corruption continued, but the state lags behind changes in the law. There is no real bar, just a private club. Public places that sell liquor must also run restaurants.

Until 1973, people brought their own sake and mixed drinks with their meals. For the next thirty years, drinks could only be made using complete mini-bottles of each liquor, like those served by plane. One Long Island Iced Tea at the time took four full mini bottles and weighed 24 ounces (700 ml).

West Columbia Republican Rep. Mika Kaski said:

Wholesalers and liquor stores oppose the bill because they don’t want Garo to be able to sell wine right after tasting. Garo had to buy his bottle from a wholesaler as lawmakers responded by changing the bill.

It didn’t help the liquor store, said George McLaughlin. He owns three locations and estimates that about 40% of his business is gallo wine. He also suggested that winemakers might eliminate wholesalers if Garo could sell wine directly to buyers.

“If my husband and wife can buy 12 bottles, they don’t have to go to a local store,” McLaughlin says. “If you take 40% of the market share, you lose 40% of your staff.”

A dozen or so small wineries in the state also appeared Thursday, asking them to oppose the bill or at least unite to open their off-site tasting room.

Larry Kojin opened the South Bend Winery in Greenwood last year. And now he sees Garo potentially robbing live music and supperclubs of his business.

“I invested my savings in the business. I put the fate of the whole family on this, as Gallo did many years ago,” Kojin said. “I’m Garo now.”

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.

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S Carolina quirky liquor laws give sour grapes to wine giant Source link S Carolina quirky liquor laws give sour grapes to wine giant

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