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‘Tasting rooms’ trip up wine giant’s proposal in SC

April 3, 2021 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A California wine maker wants to bring a new $400 million bottling center and warehouse to South Carolina but it’s the company’s desire to also add a few tasting rooms around the state that is slowing a bill at the Statehouse.

Gallo Winery picked Chester County as its site to build its first East Coast hub and said it hopes to hire 300 to 500 people. South Carolina offered traditional incentives to the site but the wine company also asked for tasting rooms.

The rooms would allow a group of 10 or so people to gather for about an hour and taste a number of different wines in thimble-full amounts. After the tasting, people could buy the wine if they liked it.

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Retailers are against allowing the company to directly sell wine. Restaurants worry the tasting rooms would be unfair competition. Some senators have listened.

The Senate Judiciary Committee sent the bill to the Senate floor Tuesday with a few changes, including limiting to three tasting rooms across the state instead of four, requiring the rooms to close by 5:30 p.m. and limiting the number of bottles that could be sold to six instead of 12.

Gov. Henry McMaster has said he supports the bill and has urged lawmakers to act quickly before the company might change its mind.

Chester County is one of South Carolina’s poorest places, but is also on Interstate 77 between Columbia and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Gallo said it likes the site because it also has access to rail lines and is not far from the port in Charleston.