A new state law requires all bars or restaurants which seek state permits to sell alcohol to now carry liability insurance.
The measure known as the “Dram Shop bill” took effect last weekend. It requires any business seeking a permit to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption after 5 p.m. to obtain at least $1 million in liability insurance coverage. A bar not in compliance risks having its license revoked.
The attorneys group South Carolina Association for Justice (SCAJ) pushed for the change, saying it would ensure bars which over-serve intoxicated patrons are held liable if those customers later cause death or serious injury through their actions. The South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association also supported the change.
“There’s a lot of instances where smaller bars are owned by a limited liability corporation (LLC) who is formed just to own this bar,” SCAJ President Hugh McAngus told South Carolina Radio Network. “They don’t get insurance and if they’re sued, they can simply close the bar, dissolve that LLC and then reopen with another company. And they’re never held liable.”
McAngus mentioned the case of Dillon police officer Jacob Richardson, who was paralyzed after his car was struck by a drunken driver in July 2014. The night club which served the other driver did not have insurance. He said Richardson’s medical expenses ended up costing the city of Dillon more than $1 million.
The new law applies to businesses which are seeking or renewing a two-year permit for on-site alcohol consumption. It would not apply to licenses for one-time events hosted by private groups or nonprofits.