Washington State Craft Distillers Plea for More Tasting Room Flexibility


In Washington State, distillers are currently allowed to operate only one on-site tasting room with serving limits of 2 oz. per customer. Crosscut.com recently ran a feature on the push among distillers in the Evergreen State to expand their flexibility in order to survive:

[P]roducers of Washington’s craft spirits say they’re not sure their industry has a future if they don’t get help from the state Legislature this year.

A proposal at the state Capitol would allow craft liquor distillers like Hembree to open two additional off-site tasting rooms, which they say would allow them to reach more customers. Unlike the single tasting room allowed under current rules, the two new tasting rooms would not be attached to a distillery’s main production center, allowing the business to expand to new locations.

Senate Bill 5549 also would allow craft distilleries more freedom to serve sample cocktails, so they can show customers how to use local spirits in mixed drinks at home…

Right now, the state’s craft liquor rules allow distilleries to serve half-ounce samples, which can be mixed with other spirits only if those, too, are produced on site. Under the bill, Washington’s craft distillers would be allowed to serve some craft spirits made by other local distilleries, expanding the variety of drink samples they can make.

Current law also sets a serving limit of 2 ounces of samples per person, per day. Senate Bill 5549 would keep that limit in place for straight alcohol, but abolish it for mixed drinks…

Read the while piece here.

Checking in on Washington State 5 Years After Privatization


Washington State privatized its liquor system in 2011 (the law took effect in 2012), and The Spokesman-Review recently published a piece investigating how the Evergreen State's booze market is faring 5 years later. According to the article, alcohol sales are up--likely due to much larger selection and more outlets selling booze--while prices have risen slightly as well. The price increase, however, may be due in part to Washington still having the highest distilled spirits tax in the entire country (according to the Tax Foundation). From the Spokesman-Review:

"Cross-border sales are one lasting effect of the privatization of liquor sales in Washington. More than six years after voters passed Initiative 1183, forcing the government to relinquish its Prohibition-era monopoly on sales of spirits, many continue to feel pinched by higher prices – and some still look for deals out of state.

Yet sales in Washington have been climbing, too. As backers of the initiative promised – notably Costco, which shelled out a record-breaking $22 million in support of the measure – there are more places than ever to buy liquor in the Evergreen State.

Privatization has enabled many distributors and retailers, such as California-based BevMo! and Maryland-based Total Wine & More, to capture significant shares of the Washington market, and top brands can be found on the shelves at any grocery store...

In fiscal 2017, Washington’s liquor taxes and fees added up to $31.48 per gallon, down from a peak of $35.22 per gallon three years prior, according to the Tax Foundation. In a distant second place this year was Oregon, where the liquor market is still tightly controlled, with a tax rate of $22.78 per gallon. Idaho, which also maintains a government monopoly, taxed $10.98 per gallon.

The high tax rate has resulted in a windfall for Washington’s government..."

Read the whole article here.

New Washington laws cover liquor samples, wine auctions, tasting rooms


Washington State recently adopted a host of changes to its alcohol laws, as reported by Jim Camden of The Spokesman-Review

"Customers sampling liquor at Washington craft distilleries can have their half shot with water or soda. Charities can auction wine to raise money. Craft distilleries can get a license to store their liquor in a warehouse.

Wineries can have twice as many tasting rooms, where they can sell growlers and kegs of their products as well as samples. Mead is officially defined in state law.

These and other changes are being made to the state’s liquor laws, which undergo yearly revisions to meet growing demand, changing consumer tastes and the movement away from state control of key aspects of the sale of and distribution of alcohol.

“The system is a legacy of prohibition,” said Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane. “The big jolt was the privatization of liquor in 2012. That has created an ongoing series of legislation as the state transitions.”

Washington enacted prohibition before the nation did, and when the national amendment was repealed, the state kept tight control of alcohol sales. Washington voters did away with that in 2012 by passing Initiative 1183, but the state still licenses businesses that make, distribute and sell alcoholic products through its Liquor and Cannabis Board..."

Read more here: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/may/08/new-washington-laws-cover-liquor-samples-wine-auct/