Charities can learn from flat beer fest results

The News TribuneNovember 13, 2013 

The most recent Tacoma Craft Beer Festival was held Sept. 7 at Cheney Stadium.

STAFF PHOTO

For the past five years, local beer lovers have looked forward to the Tacoma Craft Beer Festival. They’d get to try a lot of good beer and, as a side benefit, help out some worthy causes – including the Emergency Food Network, the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound and the YWCA.

They were half right, anyway. While the beer flowed freely, the charities’ profits only trickled in – or didn’t materialize at all.

The charities told The News Tribune’s Kate Martin that they didn’t receive nearly as much money as the organizers, Union House Productions, said they would from the festivals held on the Thea Foss Waterway and at Cheney Stadium. The American Heart Association, a co-beneficiary of the Sept. 7 beer festival, has received nothing so far.

But it turns out, as Martin reported, that the nonprofits must share the blame. They didn’t follow state law that requires them, not festival organizers, to handle the money when alcohol is served at an event. That’s to protect nonprofits from having their good names exploited by profit-making businesses.

One of the organizers, in fact, noted that Union House didn’t make much money on the beer festivals. But under the state law regarding the “special occasion” license under which the festivals operated, they’re not supposed to; they’re only allowed “reasonable operating costs.” The charities are supposed to receive 100 percent of the profits, and that doesn’t appear to have happened.

It’s unfortunate that the charities didn’t get more money out of the beer festivals, but they should have done their homework regarding their responsibilities. Now that they know the score, it’s unlikely they’ll repeat their mistake. And the state Liquor Control Board is now aware that it needs to do a better job of educating charities about what’s involved with special occasion licenses.

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