This post was guest authored by Stoel Rives summer associate Emma Vignali.

On July 23, 2017, numerous Bills will go into effect that will meaningfully impact alcohol and beverage retailers across Washington. Governor Jay Inslee will sign four bills that will create opportunities for alcohol retailers and simplify the licensing process for current and future licensees. Additionally, although not yet passed by the legislature, S.B. 5164 would expand the criteria under RCW 66.24.363 to authorize the issuance of a beer and wine tasting endorsement to small retailers of meat, seafood, poultry, and cheese. The following is a summary of some of the notable changes adopted in these bills. Note that many of the changes affect licenses, so we encourage anyone who sells alcohol in Washington to discuss these changes with their attorney.

Special Permit for Wine Auctions

H.B. 1718 amends RCW 66.20.010 to improve the process for non-profits hoping to hold wine auctions at their charitable events. While the previous process for holding wine auctions proved strenuous for many non-profits, this Bill simplifies the process by creating a special permit specifically for private wine auctions. The special permit allows non-profits to auction wine for off-premises consumption and to provide auction guests with tasting samples of the wine to be auctioned at the event. More than one winery may participate in the auction, but each must be listed on the application for the special permit. A $25.00 fee will be charged for each winery listed on the permit. Non-profit organizations considering holding a private auction should be sure to apply for a permit prior to the event.

Beer, Spirits, and Wine Distributors Pass Credit Card Fees onto Purchasers

S.B. 5665 amends RCW 66.28.270, allowing licensed distributors to pass credit card fees on to purchasers who are licensed to sell beer, wine, and spirits for on-premises consumption. The Bill requires that the decision of the purchaser to use a credit card be voluntary, and mandates that the distributor set credit card fees out as a separate line item on each invoice. Distributors must also use the same method to calculate fees for every customer. A note to distributors: remember that the total of all fees passed on to customers may not exceed the total fees imposed on the distributor by the credit card issuer in that same time period.

Caterer’s Endorsement for Tavern Licensees

Under H.B. 1902, which amends RCW 66.24.330, tavern license holders may now be issued a caterer’s endorsement, allowing the licensee to sell and serve liquor from its liquor stocks at locations other than the licensed premises. Certain restrictions will apply if the event is open to the public.

The caterer’s endorsement allows tavern licensees to:

  • Store liquor on an unlicensed premises of another party;
  • Store liquor on a premises operated by the licensee other than the licensed premises; and
  • Use the endorsement at a domestic winery and store liquor at the winery, subject to certain conditions.

Tavern licensees should be cognizant of who serves liquor at catered events; only employees of the licensee who possess a class 12 alcohol server permit license may serve liquor on behalf of the licensee under the caterer’s endorsement.

In addition to the benefits of the caterer’s endorsement, tavern licensees or their managers may now provide beer or wine to employees without charge in connection with instruction on beer and wine.

Creation of Combination Spirits, Beer, and Wine License

H.B. 1351 adds a new section to RCW 66.24, creating the combination spirits, beer, and wine license (“Combination License”). The Combination License simplifies the licensing process by creating a single license for use by specified beer, wine, and spirits retailers. The Combination License will cost $316.00 per store.

Licensees of a Combination License may:

  • Sell wine and beer, including strong beer, at retail in bottles, cans, and original containers, not to be consumed on the premises where sold;
  • Sell spirits in original containers to consumers for consumption off the licensed premises and to permit holders;
  • Sell spirits in original contains to certain retailers, but such sales cannot exceed 24 liters; and
  • Export spirits.

H.B. 1351 amends RCW 66.24.360, 66.24.371, 66.24.630, and 66.24.363 by simplifying the application process for many retail license holders. The Combination License can now serve as the exclusive license for retailers who qualify for both a Combination License and for certain retail licenses, including grocery store licenses, beer and/or wine retailer’s licenses, or spirits licenses. Combination License holders will also qualify for certain endorsements available to grocery stores and beer and/or wine specialty shops.

Additionally, further H.B. 1351 streamlines licensing by permitting holders of the beer and/or wine specialty shop license and the spirits retail license to transition to a single Combination License, by approval of the board.

Lastly, H.B. 1351 amends RCW 66.24.632 to exempt Combination License holders from license issuance fees under RCW 66.24.630(4).

Beer and Wine Tastings at Small Meat, Seafood, Poultry, and Cheese Retailers

Although still not passed by the legislature, S.B. 5164 could bring exciting opportunities to meat, poultry, seafood, and cheese shops. S.B. 5164 would amend RCW 66.24.363, which currently allows grocery stores licensed under RCW 66.24.360 to apply for an endorsement to offer beer and wine tastings. This Bill would authorize the issuance of such an endorsement to grocery store licensees with retail areas of less than ten thousand square feet who derive at least fifty percent of their revenue from the sale of any combination of fresh meat, fresh poultry, seafood, or cheese. These retailers would still be required to meet other criteria for issuance of the beer and wine tasting endorsement, as well as comply with all conditions for conducting beer and wine tastings.