How SC breweries and distilleries are adapting to life after COVID-19

South Carolina News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Whether you like breweries or distilleries, each industry has been forced to make major changes to the way they operate and sell their product- even seeking help from the state’s top officials.

Firefly Distillery the first of its kind in South Carolina paving the way for micro-distilleries across the Palmetto State.

“We blew up in 2008 and got into all 50 states within 9 months with our sweet tea vodka and the worlds first,” Scott Newitt, Co-Owner, Firefly Distillery

There has been more than a decade of booming business for Firefly, but between COVID-19 and legislation challenges, 2020 was not their easiest year.

“If you want to buy firefly on Sunday right now you can’t buy it here, but you can go across the street to Holy City Brewery and buy Firefly on a Sunday all day long,” Newitt says.

For years legislation has not allowed distilleries to sell on Sunday and right now distilleries are limited to serving 3 ounces of liquor to each customer making that roughly two drinks.

“If we had Sundays, that’s another Saturday where we could grow our business 30-40%,” says Newitt.

Hope is in sight as new legislation will allow micro-distilleries sell 4 1/2 ounces of liquor.

“It will let us sell more cocktails, more bottles on one option and the other option is we can go out and get a mixed beverage permit and beer and wine permit and stay as open as long as breweries,” Newitt says.

As firefly tries to keep up with the breweries, those businesses are finding their own ways to adapt after being hit hard at the taps. Most brewers shut down during COVID-19 including Palmetto Brewing.

“Everybody who was a full-time person, it did not matter what department you were in everybody was back there canning beers, and shipping it out. We wanted to make sure that the grocery stores and the gas stations had what they needed because everything had gone to-go,” says Tarah Gee, Public Relations & Community Relations, Palmetto Brewing Company.

The theme of 2021 overcoming COVID-19 and doing their best to come back stronger slowly easing their way back to a new normal and taps flowing full force.

“We were able to open back for on-premise sales and just shortened the model. We continued on with the shortened hours and hired live musicians again,” Gee says.

Breweries across South Carolina like Palmetto Brewery have no limits to the amount of alcohol or food they can sell to customers but were forced to make changes to survive the pandemic.

“We keep coming back and we keep coming back stronger and we keep distributing further and we keep coming up with innovative ways to reach our customers,” says Gee.

The new legislation allowing micro-distilleries to sell more liquor through tastings and drinks passed legislation back on May 5th and was signed into law by Governor McMaster on May 17th.

The law will take effect sometime in June.

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