Originally created 06/03/04

End to the bottleneck

When push came to shove, bar and restaurant workers from across the state who sought repeal of South Carolina's archaic and dangerous mini-bottle law out-numbered, and out-muscled, proponents of the status quo who sought to preserve the law.

Both sides showed up to lobby the state's House of Representatives Tuesday, but it was the forces for change that carried the day. For years, the hospitality industry, law-enforcement and substance abuse activists such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have fought to get rid of the mini-bottle law because it contributes to the state's abnormally high rates of deaths, injuries and accidents caused by drunken drivers.

Drinks from mini-bottles, like those sold on airplane flights, are about 40 percent stronger than free-hand poured drinks. This is also bad for the Palmetto Stare's bar business as the law, in effect, also restricts the choices that customers are offered in neighboring states such as Georgia.

Standing in opposition to the change were liquor distributors, distillers, bottlers and a handful of other special interests who stood to gain financially by keeping the law the way it is. Some state bureaucrats also fear loss of revenues, although studies show that loss, if any, would be minimal.

The law is difficult to change, because it requires voters to amend the constitution to allow the repeal of the mini-bottle law before lawmakers can move ahead on writing the enabling legislation. But to get on the ballot requires a two-thirds majority vote, which the House had with eight votes to spare earlier in the session, but then last week inexplicably an identical measure came up 11 votes short.

This raised questions. Why did so many lawmakers change their vote? Was there something fishy going on behind the scenes.

In any event, the forces for repeal rallied their troops over the weekend and their presence contributed to the 84-25 vote two more than necessary to put the measure on the ballot. They can be assured it was the right thing to do.

We believe in November South Carolinians will vote overwhelmingly to change the state constitution to get rid of a law that endangers their safety, damages their economy and makes them seem eccentric to out-of-state visitors. South Carolina is the only state that still has a mini-bottle law. Other states that had it discarded it years ago.


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