Coastal Uncorked in June canceled because of recent state alcohol ruling

dbryant@thesunnews.comMay 6, 2013 

Amber Suprunowski (right) and Angela Westfall, both of Myrtle Beach, look over wine and gift selections at the Market Common during the 2011 Coastal Uncorked Festival in Myrtle Beach. The Sun News file photo

— A recent state ruling about alcohol donations has led to the cancellation of this year’s Coastal Uncorked wine and spirits festival in June, officials announced Monday.

The event, which was scheduled for June 3 through June 8, relies on donations from between 25 and 35 distributors, and the ruling by the S.C. Department of Revenue reiterated that alcohol donations from distributors to nonprofit events such as Coastal Uncorked are not allowed, said Stephen Greene, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association, which was organizing the event for the first time this year.

The association found out about the ruling just a few weeks ago, not leaving time to overhaul the event, he said. Sampling drinks provided by distributors is a backbone of the event, which has occurred every year since 2010.

“We’ll just have to go back and rework our model,” Greene said. “It’s a very different way to go about it. We will have to look at how we do that now. If we had a little more time, it wouldn’t have impacted us. None of us saw it coming.”

The S.C. Department of Revenue issued a ruling in June 2012 saying it aimed to answer questions that had arisen concerning the application of the sales tax, admissions tax and the alcoholic beverage laws to fundraising events conducted by charities.

The law regarding alcohol donations for nonprofit events has been on the books for quite some time, but the S.C. Law Enforcement Division recently notified distributors that it would be more strictly enforced, local officials said. That letter prompted many distributors to start pulling out of Coastal Uncorked.

SLED said it could not answer questions about the issue Monday but would provide information Tuesday. The Department of Revenue did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The recent ruling isn’t expected to affect other major events along the Grand Strand, some event organizers and distributors said.

“We are not aware of any other events,” said Jimmy Yahnis, president of The Yahnis Co., a local beer distributor who is not involved with Coastal Uncorked and supports the law.

Festivals along Ocean Boulevard, including Oktoberfest and the St. Patrick’s Day Festival, are still a go, said Chris Walker, president of the Oceanfront Merchants Association, which organizes the events.

“Somebody decided to enforce something that probably should have been taken off the books a long time ago,” he said. “It’s nothing we won’t be able to get on top of by October.”

But the hospitality association didn’t have enough time to adjust Coastal Uncorked because it relies so much on the distributors, Greene said.

The association has been working on the festival since acquiring it in November, moving it to early June to help kick off the summer season and adjusting prices to make it more affordable. The goal is to promote the culinary side of the Grand Strand, which boasts more than 1,700 eateries, and lure visitors to the area.

A big-name celebrity wasn’t set to be part of this year’s event as in other years; Food Network’s Paula Deen appeared in 2011. But the festival was set to bring back the popular tasting trolleys and golf tournament and have chef’s competitions, Greene said.

In 2014, Coastal Uncorked is scheduled for June 2 through June 7.

Greene said the association is disappointed that the event won’t occur this year, but wanted to take the needed time to rework it.

“We don’t want to rush in and deliver something; we want to exceed expectations,” Greene said.

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at dbryant@thesunnews.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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