Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cider growlers and other new booze-related laws now in effect in Washington

Posted By on Tue, Jun 17, 2014 at 1:06 PM

click to enlarge wa-drinking-laws.jpg

A whole slate of new Washington state laws went into effect last Thursday, 90 days after the legislative session ends. Among them are a few laws that affect the way Washingtonians can get their drink on. Here are the changes:

Places licensed to sell beer growlers can now also sell cider growlers.

Craft cider is booming in Washington state, but the law hasn’t been exactly clear on how to deal with it. Is it more like wine? More like beer? Well, the passage of SB 6442 means that cider can be sold in growlers — the reusable, typically glass jugs — the same way beer on tap has been sold for years from local bottleshops and bars. The Northwest Cider Association expects this to be a huge boon for cideries trying to get a spot on local tap lists. The bill passed on March 19, and went into effect June 12.

Places licensed to distribute wine can sell wine growlers.

Tasting rooms, specialty shops and other distributors can now sell wine in refillable growlers, too, thanks to SHB 1742. Advocates emphasized that it makes wine a lot more sustainable, since wine enthusiasts can reuse a growler rather than throwing away bottles. This bill passed on March 17, and went into effect June 12. A clarification thanks to the Liquor Control Board: Wine growlers can only be sold by the wineries that produce the wine, at their own additional locations separate from any production or manufacturing sites. So, a tasting room in downtown Spokane owned by a winery in Walla Walla can sell growlers, but independent shops and tasting rooms that offer several wineries' products cannot.

Craft distilleries can sell you more alcohol.

Under previous law, craft distilleries could only sell a person three liters of spirits on a single day. That shouldn’t be a problem for personal consumption, but what if you’re picking up supplies for a big party or shopping for last-minute holiday gifts? Now, thanks to SSB 6226, that limit is gone. (It was just upped from two to three liters last year.) Additionally, craft distilleries could provide free half-ounce samples on the premises — now they can also charge for those samples if they want. Also important: It revises the definition of a “craft” distillery from one producing 60,000 gallons a year or less up to 150,000 gallons — so distilleries can make more without losing their “craft” status. This bill was passed on March 27, and went into effect June 12.

Farmers markets can offer more beer and wine samplings.

Last year, a new law started allowing beer and wine sampling at farmers markets around Washington state, with supporters saying it was a good way for local breweries and wineries to reach people who care about buying from local producers. In doing so, it also tweaked the definition of a “qualifying farmers market” so that more markets would be eligible. But since the definition wasn’t changed for selling beer and wine, some markets were eligible for sampling but not for selling. This year’s law, SB 6514, reconciles the definition so that all markets that qualify can do both. This bill was passed on March 27, and went into effect June 12.

Caterers can now apply for liquor licenses.

Many restaurants have liquor licenses, as do bars and event venues. But until now, independent catering companies without a storefront could not apply for a liquor license. Thanks to ESHB 2680, caterers can now apply for a liquor license from the state Liquor Control Board that allows them to serve alcohol at any place owned or leased by either the catering company or the organization that hired them. A couple of the stipulations: Caterers must provide some type of food at every event (at least snack food), and must send a schedule of liquor-catered events to the regional liquor board office every month. This bill was passed on March 17, and went into effect June 12.

Day spas can offer a complimentary glass of wine or beer.

Art galleries can offer visitors a complimentary glass of wine or beer to sip while they peruse the art, and wedding boutiques can do the same. So if you can have a drink with your art and your bridal gown shopping, why not your pedicure? With the passage of ESSB 5045, day spas can similarly get a permit to offer beer or wine to their guests over 21. The bill was passed April 2 and went into effect June 12.

Law enforcement can get involved if places that sell liquor have too much theft.

Part of the reason Washington did away with state-run liquor stores was the convenience of getting to pick up a bottle of vodka at the grocery store. But it’s also made theft more convenient at places that don’t keep their supply carefully guarded, and sometimes those thieves are minors. Now, with ESHB 2155, there’s a process for law enforcement and the Liquor Control Board to intervene when stores have an unusually high theft rate — defined as two or more thefts in a six-month period that involve minors getting access to liquor. This bill was passed on March 27, and went into effect June 12.


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