SLED to enforce decades old law that has never been enforced before

Beer

You can get it hot, spicy, chunky or hearty.  There is a chili for anyone at the annual Charleston Animal Society Chili Cook Off. It’s one of the organization’s biggest fundraisers.   Along with that chili, one of the biggest draws is beer to wash it down.

“We are so thankful for all the breweries” Elena Lawson, Charleston Animal Society, told the News 2 I-Team.  “If businesses aren’t able to give cash donations, they can give donations of beer where we are able to make money for the shelter. It’s much needed.”

Last year the organization raised $33,000 in beer sales during the one day event.

But enforcement of an old law, that’s never been enforced before, means brewers won’t be able to donate their libations.   Instead, the beer must go to distributors, then to charities who can sell it to you.

“It’s possible that beer prices will have to go up if we have to purchase it all ourselves so that we are still able to raise money for the shelter,” Lawson explained.

The organization has just learned about the change in the enforcement, which will impact what’s become a standard operating procedure for many charities and breweries.

“For us, we get to help a charity and get in front of the consumer to describe our brewery and our product,” Cooper River Brewing Company owner, Jamie Martin, explained.

He says the law hasn’t been followed or enforced since the 1990’s.

The News 2 I-Team spoke with SLED, the agency charged with enforcing alcohol laws. A spokesman confirmed there haven’t been any tickets written under the law.

With the boom of breweries in the area, beverage lawyer, Brook Bristow,  told Rebecca Collett the increased enforcement is likely a financial move.

“We have a lot of wineries and breweries,” he explained. “They are willing to donate. There is a lot of tax money being missed,” he continued.

In keeping pace with the explosion of breweries, the SLED spokesman, Thom Berry, confirmed there has been increased interest in regulating the alcohol industry.  In the last five years, SLED’s alcohol unit grew from two agents to 30.

“Non-profits and special events are declared by DOR to be treated as retailers. So, whether you are a for profit event or you’re a non-profit putting on an event to raise money for medical research, environmental protection, or adopting puppies, then you’re going to be subject to the same laws as the for profit liquor store down the street,” Bristow explained.

Calling it a “grace period”, Berry said the agents are focused on educating non-profits about the law instead of actually writing any tickets.

The News 2 I-Team reached out to the Department of Revenue.  A spokesperson didn’t know how much money would be collected through tax on selling beer to non-profits.

“Please note, there has not been a change in the law; breweries cannot donate beer/wine to nonprofits,” Bonnie Swingle, Public Information Director, wrote via email in response to our questions.

As for any changes that could be made to the law, Bristow says it’s months off.  He said a new bill or amendment couldn’t be considered until January.

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