After months of speculation and anticipation, the Stone Brewing buzz in the Carolinas lost its fizz last week as officials learned that the San Diego-based company passed on locating its new East Coast brewery in either state.
The 10th largest brewery in the U.S., Stone had announced it was seeking a new location east of the Mississippi for its brewery and restaurant concept. In order to help attract the brewery, the state swiftly passed legislation amending regulations to allow breweries to serve food and increasing the limit of on-location beer sales. In homage to the potential investor, the legislation was nicknamed “The Stone Bill.”
The South Carolina Commerce Department learned last week that the state was not a finalist for the brewery’s East Coast location, said spokeswoman Allison Skipper. Though the short list was not publicized, officials believed Palmetto State locales Greenville and Lexington were in the running, along with Greensboro and Charlotte in North Carolina.
“After careful review and evaluation, we narrowed the candidates to locations that we feel better fit our needs and requirements,” said Sabrina LoPiccolo, spokeswoman for Stone Brewing. An announcement of the new location will be made within 30 to 60 days, 90 days at the latest, she said.
Officials in Norfolk and Richmond, Va., along with Columbus, Ohio, believe they are still in the running for the brewery that is expected to bring a $30 million investment and potentially 350 jobs, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
“While we’re disappointed that Stone Brewing will not be locating to South Carolina, what we’re not disappointed about is the positive impact that the Stone Law is already having for South Carolina brewers,” said Brook Bristow, an attorney and advisor to the South Carolina Brewers Association, who helped draft the Stone Bill.
“The new law is all about creating jobs and providing flexibility to these great businesses, and has sent the message that South Carolina is not only open for business for brewers near and far, but will nurture and support these businesses once open. The future is bright for craft beer in the Palmetto State,” said Bristow.
Skipper was also hopeful: “Because of the new law passed this legislative session, South Carolina is now well positioned to compete for these kinds of projects in the future,” she said. “Also, our existing brewing businesses now have additional options to expand and create more jobs and impact in our state.”