Washington grocery stores that are currently licensed by the Washington State Liquor Control Board can now apply for a new license endorsement to offer beer and wine tastings in their stores. The new endorsement was created by Senate Bill No. 6329 during the 2010 Legislative Session after a successful pilot program that ended on September 30, 2009. The bill became effective June 10, 2010 and the Board is now accepting applications for the endorsement. The annual fee is $200.

To qualify, the grocery store must meet the following criteria:

  1. The grocery store must have retail sales of grocery products for off-premises consumption that are more than 50 percent of the store’s gross sales, or the grocery store is a membership organization that requires members to be at least 18 years of age;
  2. The grocery store must operate a fully enclosed retail area encompassing at least 9,000 square feet with a limited exception described below.

The Board may issue an endorsement to a grocery store with a retail area encompassing less than 9,000 square feet when three conditions are met: (1) the board determines that no other store in the community the applicant serves meets the square footage requirement; (2) the applicant meets the remaining operational requirements; and (3) the applicant has not had more than one public safety violation within the past two years.

Tastings must be conducted under the following conditions: (1) samples must be 2 ounces or less and are limited to up to a total of 4 ounces per customer during any one visit to the store; (2) food must be available for the tasting participants; (3) customers must remain in the service area while consuming samples; and (4) the service area and facilities must be located within the store’s fully enclosed retail area.  The retail area must be of a size and design so that store staff can readily observe and control persons in the area to ensure that persons under 21 years of age and visibly intoxicated persons do not possess or consume alcohol. A number of additional requirements apply. Employees conducting the tasting must hold a class 12 alcohol server permit. Wineries and breweries may provide personal services (such as pouring), but may not bear the costs of the product sampled. Further, stores may advertise tasting events only within the store, on a store website, in store newsletters and flyers, and via email and mail to customers who have requested notice of such events. For more information, go to the Board’s website.