If a new South Carolina Supreme Court decision stands, hard liquor could be for sale in hundreds of new and more convenient locations all over South Carolina---including small footprint discount retailers like Walgreens*, big box stores like Walmart*, and even grocery stores like Publix*!
The time frame? Possibly immediately.
This is an Urgent Alert to ask you to help fight what could be the greatest threat to our South Carolina family-friendly culture in well over a decade.
Here's a summary of what is happening.
- For decades, South Carolina law has restricted sales of hard liquor to "red dot" stores---establishments that sell hard liquor only. Sometimes that means the red dot is a free-standing "mom and pop" liquor store. Sometimes that means there is a wall and a separate entrance from another related store next door that sells beer and wine only.
- State law has also restricted the number of liquor licenses an entity may hold to three. That prevents hard liquor from becoming the kind of commodity that could attract investments of huge publicly traded corporations in its distribution and sale. Three licenses (meaning three stores) in a state is hardly worth the trouble for the huge players, and keeps alcohol a small-time operation.
- On March 29, 2017 an activist SC Supreme Court overturned the three-store limit, saying that the limit was nothing but "economic protectionism," and unconstitutional.
We could speak to a number of problems with the decision---like ignoring the broad rights of a state legislature to regulate alcohol under the US Constitution (21st Amendment), and activist legislating from the bench---but that isn't our purpose for alerting you today.
We need you to act now to prevent South Carolina from literally drowning in alcohol. If over 100 Walmarts* alone suddenly were in the hard liquor business, imagine what that would do to the perception, the price, the access and the consumption of alcohol. No more healthy taboos, rock bottom prices, access at the level of milk & bread---and increased consumption.
We have a consumption problem already in South Carolina, particularly as it relates to driving. Numerous non-partisan, non-moralizing research studies show South Carolina simply can't hold its liquor. Just two years ago, South Carolina was the worst in the nation for the percentage of traffic deaths involving drunk driving according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Will you help us defend our careful handling of alcohol in South Carolina?
This will be a tough, uphill fight, but worth it.
*These store names are used as examples only. Some large national or regional chain stores would like to be in the liquor business. Some would not.
Call to Action
The future of South Carolina's family friendly culture is at stake.
Please call your legislator right now and ask him or her to make sure the legislature, not an activist court makes laws on the sale of alcohol in South Carolina.
Also, tell him or her that you do not want hundreds of new liquor establishments flooding a state that has serious DUI problems already!
Tell them liquor should not have the same availability in South Carolina as to milk and bread!
This issue could hit the floor of the House as soon as THIS WEEK!
Please go to the bottom of this page to contact your legislator now!
Key Citations from the Dissenting Opinion of Justice John Kittredge (Questions are ours):
Retail Services & Systems, Inc., d/b/a Total Wine & More v. South Carolina Department of Revenue and ABC Stores of South Carolina.
Opinion No. 27709 / Heard November 5, 2015 - Filed March 29, 2017
Does the State have the authority to regulate liquor differently than other commerce?
[I]n our opinion the following propositions embody the principles governing this case: (1) That liquor, in its nature, is dangerous to the morals, good order, health, and safety of the people, and is not to be placed on the same footing with the ordinary commodities of life, such as corn, wheat, cotton, tobacco, potatoes, etc. (2) That the State, under its police power, can itself assume entire control and management of those subjects, such as liquor, that are dangerous to the peace, good order, health, morals, and welfare of the people, even when trade is one of the incidents of such entire control and
management . . . . (3) That the [Dispensary A]ct of 1893 is a police measure.
----State ex rel. George v. Aiken, 42 S.C. 222, 231-32, 20 S.E. 221, 224 (1894)
Is there a danger in massive corporations owing stores for the sales of hard liquor?
Concentration of retailing in the hands of an economically powerful few has been thought to intensify the dangers of liquor sales stimulations, thereby threatening trade stability and promotion of temperance. Regulation of the number of licenses issued, therefore, aims at controlling the tendency toward concentration of power in the liquor industry; preventing monopolies; avoiding practices such as indiscriminate price cutting and excessive advertising; and preserving the right of small, independent liquor dealers to do business.
----Johnson v. Martignetti, 375 N.E.2d 290, 297 (Mass. 1978).
Can the State Supreme Court legislate in the matter of liquor law?
At bottom, the majority disagrees with the General Assembly's policy decision limiting to three the number of licensed retail liquor stores in which a person may have an interest and the number of retail liquor licenses an entity may be issued. Fair enough. "However, it is not within our province to weigh in on the wisdom of legislative policy determinations."
-----Town of Hilton Head Island v. Kigre, Inc., 408 S.C. 647, 649-50, 760 S.E.2d 103, 104 (2014)