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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Olympia

Coming to a Rosauer’s near you: Free alcohol…

By random selection, it says, the state Liquor Control Board has picked the 15 independently-owned grocery stores that will be allowed to offer free wine and beer samples to customers, starting this fall.

Another 15 chain stores will be picked soon.

State lawmakers were extremely wary of the idea when it was floated in Olympia this year. House floor debate also offered a rare ideological flip-flop, with rural Republicans from grape-heavy areas like Sunnyside and Walla Walla touting the idea of free drinks while some urban Democrats decried it.

"Let's take a look at this bill. It's about drinking -- in grocery stores!" state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, exclaimed on the House floor in March. "What are we thinking?"

"You're going to see booze being handed out for free," said Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, a retired Navy captain. "That's wrong."

Among the proponents: Sunnyside Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse.

"You won't be seeing signs out on the street: `Come and get your free wine sample,'" he assured legislative critics at the time.

The bill passed, and the modest sampling -- a maximum of two two-ounce samples of wine or beer per person -- can begin Oct. 1. Stores can hold a tasting once a month for a year. State liquor agents will be at each store's first tasting and will be doing spot checks throughout the year-long pilot project.

Among the independent grocers taking part:

Rosauer's Super Market No. 2 in Spokane, Denny's Harvest Foods in Medical Lake and Cowiche Harvest Foods in, yes, Cowiche.

Short takes and breaking news from the Washington Legislature and the state capital.