A bill headed to the governor’s desk would expand the limit for the number of liquor stores a company can open in South Carolina.
The state Supreme Court last year ruled the state’s current three-store limit was unconstitutional. In response, legislators have agreed to expand the limit to six stores statewide — but with tight limits on where those stores could open.
“It’s phased in over a four-year period, plus it only applies to counties with populations of 250,000 or more,” State Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester, said on the House floor.
The House backed a compromise reached by the Senate last month, approving it in a 100-1 vote. The compromise would allow a business to open a fourth store in June, a fifth store after June 2020 and a sixth after June 2022. However, it also puts tight conditions on a chain attempting to open a fourth store.
That fourth, fifth or sixth store could only be located in a county with more than 250,000 residents and the same business could not have more than two licenses in the same county. An exception would be made for those businesses which already had more than two stores in the county before March 31, 2018.
Only seven counties in South Carolina (Charleston, Greenville, Horry, Lexington, Richland, Spartanburg and York) would reach the 250,000-people threshold.
For some lawmakers, the reasoning behind keeping the limit in place is to protect the small independent owners from the big boxes and chain stores.