State liquor board OKs policies for samples, tastings

Tacoma News TribuneJuly 24, 2013 

The state Liquor Control Board filled in the details Wednesday for several laws the Legislature passed this year expanding where alcohol can be served.
The laws take effect Sunday creating licenses for movie theaters to sell boozeallowing free tastings of beer and wine at farmers' markets, allowing free samples of hard liquor in stores that sell it, and letting underage college culinary students taste -- but not swallow -- wine.
The liquor board will take public input during a rule-making process, but today the board approved "interim policies" to take effectthis weekendand last until the rules are written. The board's rules coordinator, Karen McCall, told the board there would be more discussions with regulated businesses, but she also predicted the interim policies would be "pretty much identical" to the eventual rules.
Stores that want to give out free samples of liquor -- similar to what's already allowed for beer and wine -- can offer up to 1-1/2 (one and a half) ounces of free liquor per person. But they can provide up to a half-ounce of any one product, which drew an objection from Cindy Zehnder, a lobbyist for Total Wine and More, who hopes it will be increased in the final rules. 
Zehnder said shoppers might want a larger sample before buying, say, an expensive bottle of Scotch. "Somebody may be making an investment in something," she said.
Barriers are required around the sampling area, and food must be available for the samplers. The samples can't be mixed with anything -- so no rum and Coke tastings, for instance. 
There are also advertising restrictions. Grocery stores can't put signs in their windows announcing the tastings. Beer and wine specialty stores can put up signs, but they can't say the samples are free.
Other regulations that will have to be followed under new laws and policies:
* Farmers' markets can provide up to two ounces of free beer or wine per person, with up to three wineries or breweries allowed to serve the alcohol each day out of walled-off booths. A barrier, such a rope, must be at least 42 inches off the ground. Advertising is allowed only in the market.
* Community-college students in culinary classes or related programs will be able to sip wine, then spit it out. Only those 18 and older may taste the wine, and only under supervision of a college employee with a special alcohol server permit.
* Under one new law, theaters with four or fewer screens can apply for a beer and wine license. Under another, theaters with 120 or fewer seats per screen are eligible for a beer, wine and liquor license. In both cases, alcohol must be served in containers that look different from those of other drinks. People can buy up to two servings per transaction. The server who takes the order must bring the beverages.

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