On the list of California laws affecting the wine industry in the New Year is AB 605 – the Instructional Tasting Events License. Introduced in 2009 and signed into law September 23, 2010, AB 605 adds to the Business and Professions Code sections 23396.6 and 25503.56. The additions allow the ABC to issue a single “instructional tasting license” to any holder of an off-sale retail license, thus doing away with the need for retailers/suppliers to get a permit for every “instructional tasting” event. Retailers granted an instructional tasting license would be allowed to hold an “event for consumers on the subject of wine, beer, or distilled spirits, including, but not limited to, the history, nature, values, and characteristics of wine, beer, or distilled spirits, and the methods of presenting and serving wine, beer, or distilled spirits.” These events may include the consumption of alcohol.

          The retailers may not conduct the events themselves. However, they may invite “authorized licensees” (i.e., holders of manufacturing or supply licenses) to conduct them. The retailer may hold the event if, among other things, the authorized license holder is unable to attend and the event has been advertised and scheduled. In addition, the retailer can’t supply the alcohol for the event; it must be supplied by the authorized licensees or purchased from the retailer by the authorized licensees at the going rate.

          The events must be located at a cordoned-off section of the retailer’s premises. The law also sets stringent restrictions on servers and attendees (no one under 21), types of alcohol (wine, spirits, or beer but no combinations), charge (can’t have one), serving amount (one ounce for wine), and event times (between 10 am and 9 pm).

          The new licenses are not permitted to be issued to any off-sale licensee at a location where gasoline is sold, unless the licensee operates a “fully-enclosed” off-sale retail space of at least 10,000 square feet (i.e., Costco, Walmart, Safeway, etc.). Nor can they be issued to licensees at locations “with a total of less than 5,000 square feet of interior retail space” unless yearly gross sales of alcohol at that location are at least 75% of total gross sales (i.e., liquor stores).

          The fee for the new license is $300. Violations of the age limit are a misdemeanor and carry a penalty of $200 (for both the retailer and the minor). A violation of any section carries a penalty of suspension of the instructional license for the retailer and suspension of the privilege of conducting instructional tasting events for the authorized licensee for a period of six months to a year.