"I like (The Untouchables), and I like the James Bond movies, but it would be boring to say that."
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on his favorite Sean Connery movie. The screen star and occasional kilt model was in Washington to celebrate the creation of the Senate Friends of Scotland Caucus that Graham started with a few fellow senators. We would have called it the International Man of Mystery Caucus, but whatever. Source: U.S. News and World Reports
Most successful breweries love to show off their digs, letting aficionados relish in sipping from the mother tap. But not in South Carolina, where a three-tiered system birthed in 1933 requires the brewer, distributor, and retailer to operate as separate entities. Breweries can only sell on their premises if they don't distribute (like Southend Brewery on East Bay Street).
Jaime Tenney (pictured) and David Merritt, the husband and wife team behind the popular local Coast Brewing Co., are hoping to change that and put a beer garden at their North Charleston site.
But the South Carolina Beer Wholesalers Association opposes any efforts to allow breweries to sell on site. They're afraid of losing business, says Rep. Bill Herbkersman (R-Bluffton).
"My family had the first brewpub in S.C.," says Herbkersman. "This three-tier system is so convoluted. We're one of the few states that still have it, and you know, the distributors love it because they're making money. You can't sell anything in the state without going through them. Really, they're protecting turf, and that is not allowing for a free market."
The Wholesalers Association says it's willing to work with brewers to create an allowance for tastings, but not sales. Herbkersman is planning to introduce the tastings bill.
The Charleston Beer Exchange downtown had to stop conducting tastings after receiving a warning from the Department of Revenue. "We don't even taste the beer here now when a sales rep comes in," says Beer Exchange co-owner Rich Carley. "When the laws were written, I believe beer was seen as Bud, Miller, and Coors, and they never thought that tastings would be necessary or appropriate."
The local Firefly distillery has had slightly better luck, with a bill (H. 3452) moving through the legislature that would allow on-site tastings and limited sales at its Wadmalaw facility.
Tenney says that three potential breweries contacted her in the past year with questions about owning a brewery in the state. All ultimately decided to locate in North Carolina, where laws are friendlier to brewers. N.C. has over 40 breweries, and Asheville alone has 13, even though it has a third of Charleston's population.
"This isn't even about beer to me anymore. This is big business trying to stamp out small business," says Tenney. —Stratton Lawrence
S.C. House Looks to Stymie Student Vote
The South Carolina House approved a bill recently to require a picture ID to vote, led by House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston.
"To say that requiring a picture ID to vote creates an undue burden is absurd," says Harrell.
It's not absurd. It's actually a fact. Charleston college students were wrongly turned away at the polls in November over the validity of student IDs, and it was not the first time. Picture ID requirements breed confusion at the polls, especially for volunteer poll managers who don't understand that the ID is for identification only — not to match addresses. Students with a permanent address out of state or in another part of South Carolina are still allowed to vote in their college towns. —Greg Hambrick
That's one estimate for the crowd of Upstate Young Republicans who spent a recent Friday night throwing leaves (both the tea and the yard waste variety) into the Reedy River to protest the federal economic stimulus. Here in Charleston, we drink our tea ... with sugar ... and vodka ... and maybe some lemonade. Source: The Greenville News
Orangeburg Suggests $700 Million Port Corridor
Concerned that far more than a soured U.S. economy is eroding the state's position in the global supply chain, the Orangeburg County Development Commission is promoting a $700 million plan for a "global logistics corridor" from the Port of Charleston to Columbia.
The proposal calls for creating a new freight rail shuttle service between Charleston and Orangeburg, where containers would then flow in all directions from a planned 61-acre intermodal yard. It was outlined in a white paper distributed to the state's Congressional delegation and the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs during a two-day trip to Washington in February.
Much of the long-term proposal doesn't qualify for the $787 billion federal economic stimulus package, but Gregg Robinson, the OCDC's executive director, says passage of the stimulus package should "free up some of the normal or traditional sources of funding, such as the federal highway fund, over the next several years.
That said, Robinson sees the plan as part of the economic recovery process.
"What we're putting out there is a regional solution to a statewide problem — a plan that will create hundreds of construction jobs in the near term and thousands of sustainable jobs over the next 20 years," he says. —Dan McCue
McConnell Calls for Gambling Changes
Senate leader Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) introduced a bill last week that would allow charities to hold fund-raisers and events that would currently be illegal under the state's stiff regulations against gambling.
"It makes no sense to me that a member of a church cannot offer a handmade quilt to raffle to raise money for his or her church class. It makes no sense to me that a nonprofit group cannot offer 10 cents a chance to raffle a cake to raise money," McConnell says.
He's offering up a bill for immediate relief for nonprofits, as well as a constitutional amendment that would be on the ballot in 2010 to permanently change the law. —Greg Hambrick