South Carolina

The (Legal) History of Mini Bottles of Booze


Everyone loves mini bottles of spirits--especially when stuck on a cross-country flight. Renowned drinks writer Wayne Curtis writes about the history of mini bottles (sometimes called airplane bottles) for Imbibe, including how the government has regulated them over time:

[M]inis enjoyed their golden age in the 1960s and ’70s, and not only because of American travel trends. It was also thanks to the ham-handed efforts of states to regulate tippling. Battles over the sales of minis cropped up like political wildfires, in part because states alternately saw them as routes both toward and away from moderation. In temperance-loving Utah, for example, minis were first legalized in 1969 as the lesser-of-two-evils alternative to the brown-bagging of restaurant patrons. The mini-only policy lasted until 1990, when the state reversed course and again banned minis. (Only 200 ml. and larger bottles are now legal.)

Legalization disputes also flared up in Texas in 1968 and in Chicago in 1995 (focusing on grain alcohol minis, which were used to cook up crack cocaine). In much of the South, puritanical state legislators banned minis, viewing them as a cheap shortcut to inebriation for working men. (Bar owners often supported these bans, as they’d rather someone stop by their place for an after-work shot than detour by the local liquor store.) They’re still restricted in spots, including Louisiana, where the 100 ml. mini—twice the size of the more familiar version—was legalized only in 2014.

Last year, Maine joined the scuffle, alarmed by a surge in sales of minis—from 8.4 million bottles in 2016 to an estimated 12 million in 2017. (In Maine, Fireball sold in minis brings in four times as much revenue as that in full-size bottles.) Litter was out of control, some groused—a person couldn’t walk from Eastport to Westbrook without trodding on mini Fireballs the whole way. So the state legislature proposed a 15-cent deposit, to which the anti-tax governor threatened to ban all minis. In the end, the state bumped up the retail price by 50 percent, and added a 5-cent deposit as a coup de grâce.

The state associated most closely with minis, however, remains South Carolina. Like a clueless soldier fighting a long-lost war, the state required all bars and restaurants to make drinks from minis until 2006...

Read the rest of Curtis' article here

South Carolina Reinstitutes Liquor Store Cap


Last year, South Carolina's supreme court struck down the state's liquor license cap for retail stores. Previously, the state had only allowed a single owner to operate up to 4 stores in the state, an arbitrary restriction that the court found to violate the state constitution. Ever since, lawmakers have been determined to reinstitute the cap in some form, and it appears they're on the brink of accomplishing that goal:

The House has approved a bill to re-establish the state’s limit on how many liquor stores a person or business can own.

In a 100-1 vote on Tuesday, the House agreed with a Senate proposal limiting licenses based on whether a country has a population of more than 250,000 people.

The new law keeps the limit of three stores except in seven counties which have a population over a quarter of a million.

In those counties, owners are allowed up to six stores.

More here.

R Street's Jarrett Dieterle previously wrote both an op-ed and a policy short about last year's state supreme court decision.


Back From the Dead? South Carolina May Solidify Its Liquor Store Cap


Last year, South Carolina's Supreme Court struck down a state law that limited (to 3) the number of liquor stores a single owner could operate within the state. The court rejected the law under the state constitution since it was merely a form of raw economic protectionism. (R Street's Jarrett Dieterle wrote both an op-ed and a policy short about the case.)

Now, according to the Post & Courier, politicians in the Palmetto State might extend the cap anyways:

"Advocates of preserving South Carolina’s three-store limit for liquor licenses are hoping legislators quickly pass a bill to keep liquor off the shelves of grocery stores and pharmacies statewide.

The state Supreme Court struck down the limit last year as unconstitutional — a victory for Total Wine & More, which has stores in Charleston, Greenville and Columbia and wanted to open a fourth in South Carolina.

Days later, legislators passed a compromise maintaining the license limit for one year. That expires April 5. A bi-partisan bill up for debate on the S.C. House floor would preserve the cap indefinitely...."

Read the rest here.

When the State Gives Lemons

The magazine Beverage Master has a nice rundown of liquor regulations and restrictions in various states around the country:

"With the passing of the 21st amendment, the prohibition of alcohol in the United States was officially repealed. Each state was given the power to regulate and control the distribution of alcohol within their borders. Today, every state handles the sales of alcohol a little differently, including setting limitations on what craft distilleries can do in their gift shops and tasting rooms. Some states are more “craft friendly” than others by allowing sampling, cocktail and bottle sales, direct distribution, paid tours, and other profitable options. However, every state imposes some restrictions. When the state imposes restrictions, how can distillers work within the laws to increase their bottom line?.."

Read the state-by-state summaries here:

New Alcohol Policy Study: Could economic liberty litigation ‘free the booze?’

R Street's Jarrett Dieterle has published a white paper focusing on a recent court case out of South Carolina that could have major implications for the world of booze:

The South Carolina Supreme Court recently struck down a state law limiting how many liquor retail outlets an individual or business could own within the Palmetto State.1 According to the court, the only justification for the law was economic protectionism, an improper basis for economic regulation. The case may be a portent for the end of oppressive and protectionist alcohol-regulation regimes across the country, and a sign that the recent revival in economic liberty jurisprudence could be coming to the world of booze.

Check out the full paper here:

Jarrett previously coauthored an op-ed in the Charleston Post & Courier about the case, as well:

For Total Wine, it’s total war against alcohol regulations

Total Wine & More, the Maryland-based alcohol retailer, has been behind several recent pushes to loosen and reform booze retailing laws around the country. Dan Adams of The Boston Globe reports on the store's latest reform efforts in Massachusetts:

"Total Wine & More is waging total war on the nation’s alcohol laws — and Massachusetts is the new front line.

The largest retailer of beer, wine, and liquor in the country, Total Wine has successfully challenged longstanding alcohol laws in numerous states, tilting the marketplace to its advantage through a mix of litigation, lobbying, and rallying support from customers.

Alcohol sales on Sundays in Minnesota? Allowed as of February, thanks to a years-long campaign by Total Wine. Later closing time for liquor stores in Connecticut? That was also Total Wine. Ditto for overturning a ban on volume discounts in Maryland, and lifting the cap on the number of store licenses in South Carolina.

In Massachusetts, Total Wine has sued to invalidate a state regulation that prevents retailers from selling alcohol below cost, a common practice in other industries. The company is also about to launch a public relations campaign here challenging a state rule prohibiting alcohol retailers from issuing discount coupons and loyalty cards...."

Read the rest here:

Total Wine's retail cap fight in South Carolina was recently discussed by R Street's Jarrett Dieterle in this op-ed as well as a 3-part blog post series for the Federalist Society (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Let all S.C. liquor stores compete on the same level

R Street's Jarrett Dieterle weighed in on a recent South Carolina supreme court case, which held that a law limiting the number of liquor retail stores a single owner could operate within the state was unconstitutional. The article originally appeared in the Post & Courier:

Until very recently, South Carolina liquor store owners were only allowed to operate up to three retail outlets in the Palmetto State. The decades-old cap was struck down late last month by the state Supreme Court as unconstitutional, on grounds the law was arbitrary and motivated solely by economic protectionism.

While the state’s incumbent liquor stores have been quick to condemn the decision, South Carolinians should embrace the court’s holding and resist attempts to reinstate the cap in a slightly altered form.

Read the whole thing at: previously covered this South Carolina case here and here.

SC Senate wants to reverse court’s liquor-store decision

Jeff Wilkinson reports for The State on an attempt in the South Carolina legislature to reverse a recent decision by the state Supreme Court:

"Don’t pop those corks just yet, big-box liquor stores.

The state Senate wants to reverse a South Carolina Supreme Court decision last month that struck down the state’s 80-year-old prohibition on any one company owning more than three liquor stores in the state.

The Senate voted to amend the state budget to require an owner to hand over the equivalent of a year’s total gross sales from one of its existing stores to get a license for a fourth store. The law, which would be in effect for just one year, requires similar payments for each additional license, according to state Sen. Larry Grooms, the bill’s sponsor.

“The fee ... is necessary to fund additional law enforcement, regulatory measures, health care costs and associated impacts on the health, safety and welfare of the state’s residents resulting from the anticipated additional sales of liquor,” the amendment reads.

The measure, which passed the Senate 36-7, would delay the full implementation of the high court’s order for one year, allowing lawmakers time to decide how to tweak the law to stand judicial scrutiny, according to Grooms, R-Berkeley...."

Read more at: previously covered the Supreme Court's ruling here.

South Carolina high court overturns liquor license limit

Roddie Burris reports:

"South Carolina’s liquor license laws restricting the number of stores a licensee can operate in the state is discriminatory and unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

In a 4-1 decision, the justices reversed a 2014 lower court ruling that had upheld the state’s longtime power and practice of limiting the number of retail outlets to three per licensee.

Maryland-based Total Wine & More challenged the law after the S.C. Department of Revenue denied it a license to open a store in Aiken, a fourth in the state..."

Read more at: