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South Carolina's pint bill collides with drunk driving concerns

A recent blog discussed South Carolina's elimination of its mini-bottle requirement at serving establishments and its possible impact on drinking and driving in the state. Now, a legislative measure that would allow craft breweries to sell larger portions of beer for on-site consumption is raising concerns about its impact on drunk driving and dram shop liability for establishments that serve alcohol.

The amended "pint bill," currently in the state Senate, would allow breweries to serve 48 ounces or three pints of beer daily to a customer. The limit would have been 64 ounces or four pints per day under the bill passed by the House of Representatives. Parties are attempting to negotiate a compromise to address fears by Mothers Against Drunk Driving that the measure could increase the likelihood of a drunk driving accident. Current law limits breweries to offering four-ounce samples per person daily in conjunction with a brewery tour.

MADD stated that breweries crafted their business models under current law. MADD argued for a lower serving limit and consideration that craft beers often contain higher alcohol-by-volume content. Pints of beer with high-alcohol content could exacerbate drunk driving in South Carolina which is among the states with the highest drinking-and-driving fatalities, according to this group.

Breweries argue that South Carolina has DUI laws and that craft beer drinkers are usually responsible consumers of alcohol. Breweries support proposed requirements for training that would instruct servers to recognize when a patron is being over-served. This bill is consistent with requirements in other states and would boost the state's economy, according to bill proponents.

Senate amendments requiring insurance coverage are also raising objections that the breweries would be placed at a competitive disadvantage. Breweries claim that no other business selling alcohol in the state must have insurance coverage of $1 million per occurrence and $10 million in the aggregate, as proposed in the amendment.

As this debate indicates, over-consumption of alcohol and drunk driving still threaten South Carolina motorists. A driver or pedestrian injured in a drunk driving accident should seek advice on dram shop liability by the establishment serving the alcohol and the impaired driver. Victims should obtain guidance on their right to compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, wrongful death and other losses.

Source: Greenville News, "'Pint bill' held up in S.C. legislature by Greenville senator," Eric Connor, May 6, 2013

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