Popular South Carolina Country Music Venue Shuts Down After 29 Years Due to Liquor Liability Insurance Costs

June 3, 2024

A popular country music venue in Greenville, South Carolina, has closed its doors after almost 30 years, citing the cost of liquor liability insurance in the state.

The Blind Horse Saloon, known for hosting some well-known artists through the years and lots of line dancing, posted on social media in May that it had shut down.

“Due to the South Carolina liquor insurance requirements we are regrettably having to close our doors…It has been a wonderful 29 years,” reads the posting on Facebook and the venue’s website.

Charlie Daniels, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt and others have played the spot. A Tyler Hubbard concert set for Sept. 20 has now been canceled. Meanwhile, the saloon faces at least two lawsuits stemming from alcohol-related incidents.

The saloon is one of many bars and restaurants in South Carolina that have closed or have said they plan to close because of soaring liquor liability premiums. The spike in premiums began in 2018, after state lawmakers approved a law requiring $1 million in liability coverage for all establishments serving alcohol after 5 p.m.

The law came about after a high-profile auto accident that killed two people and severely injured a police officer. Neither the driver nor the drinking establishment had liability insurance, leaving the officer’s county employer to pay the medical expenses.

Since then, bistro and restaurant owners and local insurance agents have said insurance premiums have more than tripled in many cases, leaving establishments unable to comply with the law. Some have also blamed South Carolina’s joint-and-several liability statute, which allows juries to assign most of the damage award to a party that may have played only a minor role in liquor-fueled accidents.

The state Department of Insurance reported in January that the liquor liability insurance market in the state is “extremely unprofitable” and was showing massive underwriting losses.

Some state lawmakers this year attempted to address the crisis with a number of bills, including one that would have reformed the joint-and-several rule and allow juries to apportion fault. Another bill offered a state fund to cover some of the liability coverage costs. Another would have allowed establishments to set up their own captive insurance companies to provide at least half the coverage.

In the end, none of the bills passed the legislature this spring. Opponents argued that some of the measures would have made it difficult for victims of accidents to be made whole and did not address insurance companies’ higher rates, according to news reports.

It’s a sad day for the South Carolina line dance scene, a dance instructor at Blind Horse told the newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina.