On Fri. July 15, 11 downtown art galleries hosted the 11th annual Palette and Palate Stroll, a fundraising event that features small bites from local restaurants along with local art. A ticketed event ($45) that usually sells out, as it did this year, P&P donates a portion of its proceeds to art programs at 11 local high schools.

For nine years the nonprofit Charleston Fine Art Dealers’ Association hosted the event, but for the past two years P&P has been put on by Stylee PR. And for a decade, Palette and Palate has featured food, art … and wine. This year, however, only one participating gallery, the Martin Gallery, served alcohol — a fact that had some people upset.

“I got seven emails that were nasty,” says Vladia Spencer, the event’s organizer. She says that while most attendees were pleased with the event, there were a few who were disgruntled by the lack of alcohol. While Palette and Palate is advertised simply as a food and art event, many guests assumed that, after 10 years of serving alcohol, galleries would continue to do so this year.

The day before the P&P stroll, Spencer says she caught wind that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division would be cracking down on ticketed events serving alcohol.
After realizing that Palette and Palate’s participating galleries may not have the correct permits, Spencer asked each gallery to try and obtain one — ASAP — or not serve alcohol at all to avoid a fine. The Martin Gallery was the only spot that was able to get a permit in time.

According to the Department of Revenue’s Bonnie Swingle, “Every special event is required to have a license.” She confirms that the Martin Gallery was the only P&P venue to both apply for and receive a special event license.

“If you have everything correct and don’t have any follow-up, you can sometimes do three to five days, or the day of if it’s an emergency,” says Swingle of receiving an alcohol license. She says that venues should request a license at least 15 days before their scheduled events.

Palette and Palate is a ticketed event, meaning their guests are paying money to enter and each venue must have an alcohol license to serve. So why the confusion?

Art galleries often host free art receptions — most notably on First Fridays or once a quarter at the Charleston Art Gallery Association’s ArtWalks. If you’ve ever been to a Charleston art gallery on an art walk, you’ve probably had a glass or two of wine. But Julie Dunn, president of the Charleston Gallery Association (which is not associated with Palette and Palate), says that she was not aware of any issue regarding the need for alcohol licenses for non-ticketed free events.

Swingle explains the reason. “ABL laws are very specific and all of the details of the venue and event are needed to make that determination [if a license is required]. For example, if people have to buy tickets to get into the venue but do not need to purchase the alcohol, a license may still be required because the sale of alcohol is included in the ticket price,” she says.

We asked Thom Berry, SLED’s spokesman, for verification. He says, “A good rule of thumb is if money changes hands then a permit would be required.”

Art galleries aren’t the only venues who have to deal with alcohol licenses. Since May, SLED has been enforcing old state laws that prohibit breweries from, among other things, donating their beer to an event hosted by a nonprofit. Berry, though, says that SLED has not stepped up monitoring; instead, increased funding has allowed for SLED to hire more agents in the area of alcohol enforcement.

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