Grocery-store beer/wine tasting bill bubbles back to life

(update since this original report – it passed)

It’s tanked in the state Legislature a couple times in the past few years, but Admiral resident Liz Wilhelm points out that the bill to allow grocery-store beer/wine tastings is back. In fact, it’s up for a hearing in the State House Committee on Commerce and Labor in Olympia at 8 am today, according to the bill’s official webpage. Liz has a lot to say about it:

This week, Washington State’s latest under-the-radar legislation is
about to sail through Olympia. The bill is named ESB 5751 (companion HB
2076)-… I wonder if the ESB is in honor of “Extra Special Bitter” by

Briefly, ESB 5751 will establish a wine and beer sampling pilot program
in our State’s grocery stores. Yes folks, while shopping with the kids
at your local Safeway, you may have to negotiate more than choosing
between Lucky Charms and Sugar Smacks.

It’s only a pilot program but a big toe in the door for its sponsors.
The primary sponsors of this legislation are Senators Kohl-Welles,
Hewitt, and Rockefeller plus Representatives Conway, Williams, Condotta, Newhouse, and Ormsby (Thank goodness none of the
34th district legislators support this bill! Thank you, Rep Sharon
Nelson for keeping an eye on this!) [WSB NOTE: Actually, according to the Feb. 12 Senate roll call linked from the bill’s official page, West Seattle state Sen. Joe McDermott voted for it.]

The wording… oh you’re going to love this. Here’s an excerpt:

“The service area and facilities must be located within the licensee’s
fully enclosed retail area, and must be of a size and design such that
the licensee can observe and control persons in the area to ensure that
persons under twenty-one years of age and obviously intoxicated persons
cannot possess or consume alcohol. Customers must remain in the service
area while consuming samples. The licensee must have food available for
the tasting participants.”

“Obviously intoxicated”? Well, at least there’ll be Nachos.

I drink socially, usually wine and beer. I’m far from an anti-alcohol
nanny but do object to my tax dollars going towards the necessary
policing of this scheme and I ask you to just consider the consequences
if this legislation passes into law. With any law that involves alcohol,
there needs to be oversight. Oversight costs money and the money comes
from the taxpayer. That’s you and me, in case you didn’t know.

It’s tough enough to go grocery shopping with the kids, now we have to
deal with a de-facto bar on aisle 7. And then there’s the question of
parking. I don’t know about you, but driving through a supermarket’s
parking lot is challenging enough when sober, wouldn’t it be just lovely
if a drunk (a lot of professional drunks are very adept at looking
sober) ploughed into you or your vehicle after he or she stopped on the
way home from the bar for a little extra “tasting.” I’m also wondering
who is going to stop the 6 foot 210 pound angry man from taking off to
the frozen food section to grab a few more egg rolls to enjoy with his
beer sample.

And, we have yet another avenue for our teens to use their fake IDs.

There are enough bars and restaurants in Washington State and that’s
where wine and beer tastings should take place. Served by professional
bartenders and consumed by like-minded individuals. Period.

My questions are many, but specifically: Are Safeway, Costco, Fred
Meyer, QFC, Albertsons, and Trader Joe’s stores in support of this
legislation? Do the stores absorb the cost of the samples, cups, food,
and servers?

Who will benefit from this legislation? Not the public, not the stores,
not the liquor control board. Perhaps some legislators with wine
industry interests have motivations the rest of us don’t know about.

ESB 5751/HB2076 has been set for hearing in House Commerce and Labor
committee Thursday, February 21st at 8 am. It needs to be opposed.

More text from bill:

“A “tasting” may be conducted under the following conditions:

“Each sample must be two ounces or less, up to a total of four ounces,
per customer;

“No more than one sample of any single brand and type of beer or wine may
be provided to a customer during any one visit to the premises; and

“The licensee may only advertise the tasting event within the store.”

As mentioned above, the Senate already has voted on this, but if you want to provide your opinion or comments to West Seattle’s state House Reps, contact info for Rep. Sharon Nelson is here, and contact info for Rep. Eileen Cody is here.

16 Replies to "Grocery-store beer/wine tasting bill bubbles back to life"

  • roddy February 21, 2008 (10:31 am)

    Woo-hoo! A total of four whole ounces per customer! And I am sure once those four ounces have been consumed, the loopy customer will jump into his/her car, roar out of the parking lot, and head to the next grocery store for another four ounces! We must put a stop to this before “storehopping” or “store crawls” ensue! Please.

    When I have seen the sampling in other states it is “policed” by the persons offering the samples (usually sales reps from the brewery or winery). No tax dollars involved. So….maybe it’s time to loosen up a bit?

  • RS February 21, 2008 (11:43 am)

    I’m so glad I moved to Seattle. The last time I voted on anything like this it was a referendum to allow grocery stores to even SELL alcohol. And it failed! Bless you, Washington state, for not having ridiculous blue laws.

  • Keith February 21, 2008 (12:14 pm)

    I don’t even know where to begin in responding to the unfounded fears and ‘nanny state’ psychology behind Ms. Wilhelm’s rant. The picture she paints in this post is totally laughable — and a little bit scary — to see how someone might view a grocery store wine tasting as a swift ticket to TOTAL CHAOS. All she left out from her worst-case scenarios was “dogs and cats sleeping together.”

    Liz, put down the triple mocha, stop eating your kids’ sugary cereal, take a deep breath and try to calm down. Wine & beer tasting in grocery stores would most assuredly not be the end of the world, and I for one would welcome it.

    As for who would benefit from this legislation, isn’t it obvious? Consumers (That’s you and me, in case you didn’t know), local businesses, the Washington beer and wine industry and yes, even the state liquor control board itself which, in addition to enforcing the rules, works to protect the interests of Washington producers of beer and wine.

    Why are state tax dollars spent on helping the Washington beer & wine industry (along with countless other local industries)? In recent years, Washington’s wine industry has become the fastest-growing agricultural sector in the state. The number of Washington wineries has increased 400% in the last decade, attracting two million annual visitors to Washington wine country and creating a multi-million dollar wine-tourism industry. All totaled, Washington wine regions produce more wine grapes than any other state in the U.S., except California. Wine grapes are now the fourth most important fruit crop in Washington State behind apples, cherries and pears.

  • Mac February 21, 2008 (1:15 pm)

    We’re a city known for our craft breweries and a state with a respected viticulture. We should act like one.

  • Jill February 21, 2008 (1:39 pm)

    Thanks, Keith. Cats & dogs, lol! One of my favorite expressions and so appropriately applied here.

  • Al February 21, 2008 (2:57 pm)

    “Perhaps some legislators with wine
    industry interests have motivations the rest of us don’t know about.”

    One motivation could be increased sales! Thanks for the chuckle Keith!

  • coffee geek February 21, 2008 (3:44 pm)

    Wine and beer tasting COULD lead to inter-species marriage. We must avoid such slippery slopes.

  • Liz February 21, 2008 (5:25 pm)

    Enjoy your chuckle. Obviously you don’t have kids and aren’t concerned about the effects alcohol marketing which research has shown to influence underage youth to begin drinking, doubling their chances of having alcohol-related problems later in life.
    I’m just doing my job and proud of it.

  • Jill February 21, 2008 (7:59 pm)

    Jeez, talk about a buzz kill.

  • coffee geek February 22, 2008 (9:58 am)

    Liz: I was waiting for the holier than thou “obviously you don’t have kids” card to be played. Congratulations. You have succesfully procreated. I am sure you are aware the amount of skill and intelligence that amazing feat requires. If “marketing” overpowers your parenting efforts, I truly am sorry. Do everyone a favor and keep your fears out of our (responsible) fun.

  • JumboJim February 22, 2008 (11:19 am)

    That dang “under the radar legislation”! To think, the news media isn’t trying to scare the wits out of us by trumpeting the incredible menace this bill presents. I am shocked! Shocked!

    Non-procreators unite!

  • Beerbelly February 22, 2008 (12:24 pm)

    I don’t see any reference to the author actually having kids, but she is concerned about our young people being exposed to alcohol consumption during their impressionable years, in what is usually considered a safe location.

    Another question I have is: if wineries have increased 400% in the last decade, why do they need to set up shop in my grocery store? Do they need the money?

    Personally, I like to get sh*tfaced from time to time. That said, I do think it’s stupid to have people drinking (no matter how small the samples) in my local grocery store. Who the hell wants to hang out in Safeway when there are perfectly good bars down the street.

    I just wonder what recovering alcoholics think about all of this, there are more of them out there than most people think.

  • coffee geek February 22, 2008 (12:41 pm)

    Beerbelly: “It’s tough enough to go grocery shopping with the kids, now we have to
    deal with a de-facto bar on aisle 7.” There’s your reference to the author having kids. Please tell us how 4oz grocery store samples constitute “unsafe”. Please tell us how sampling 4oz constitutes “hanging out”. I was born in Germany and accompanied my parents to the pub whenever they went. As for the recovering alcoholics, who cares? Falls under the category of “your life choices are not my problem, nor should they be my concern”.

  • Keith February 22, 2008 (1:48 pm)

    The point of a 4oz tasting is not to hang out and get sh*tfaced, nor to entice young people into drinking, nor to taunt recovering alcoholics. It’s for people like me (and plenty others) who are of legal age and interested in buying beer and wine for enjoyment off-site, not to chug it down right there in the store or force it down anyone’s throat.

    In California, you can not only buy beer & wine in a grocery store but also find hard alcohol, along with all kinds of promotional and marketing presence for spirits. Somehow, the children and recovering alcoholics of California still manage to get their grocery shopping done without having nervous breakdowns.

  • Frumpz March 11, 2008 (1:19 am)

    Well the bill has passed the legislature and now it is in the hands of the governor. I could understand the concerns when I first heard the news bites on TV, but after reviewing the legislation, it seems like a bill with an eye to the economy and public safety. I hope the governor signs this pilot project and look forward to the opportunity to sample local brews and wines.

  • Beer & Wine tasting in Washington State grocery stores? | Rant - Rave - Review March 11, 2008 (1:27 am)

    […] press and eventual failure. So get the word out! Check out the conversation on this bill at the West Seattle blog and chime in here, there and of course to Christine Gregoire Posted in Beer, Politics, Review, […]

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