OLYMPIA –With several strokes of the governor’s pen, Washington’s liquor laws were loosened up Thursday, allowing bars to offer small samples of beer and wine, grocery stores to sell large bottles of beer and cider, distilleries to serve mixers with their samples and wineries to offer private wine-tasting events at other locations.
At the same time, it was thumbs down for the newest kid on the booze block, powdered alcohol.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill banning that product, which can turn to vodka or rum by just adding water, saying he feared it had the potential to be misused by youth.
“This is about protecting our children,” said Inslee, adding he didn’t believe there are questions about the product’s purity or that it had any more harmful effects than traditional types of alcohol.
A federal agency approved sales of the product, Palcohol, in March. The Legislature initially considered regulating and taxing powdered alcohol, but changed course midway through the session and went for an outright ban as a way to keep it away from kids. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and the House on a vote of 91-6.
Inslee signed several other bills that rewrite state law to make traditional alcohol easier to obtain.
• Bars will be able to serve 2-ounce samples of wine or beer on tap, with a limit of 4 ounces per customer.
• Grocery stores will be able to get licenses to sell growlers – large refillable bottles – of beer or hard cider if they meet certain requirements. Buyers won’t be able to use electronic bank transfer cards for purchases.
• Distilleries, which can already offer or sell samples of their liquor, will now be able to add soda or mixers to their products for the tastings. They will also be able to sell their products at farmers markets, get permits for special events for tastings and sales, and offer gift cards that can be redeemed for their products.
• Wineries can get special permits that will allow them to hold as many as 12 wine-tasting events off premises.
• Small liquor stores will have an easier time negotiating volume discounts from distributors.
Inslee said those bills give the state a more consistent approach in dealing with different circumstances and venues for selling alcohol, and involve businesses that are already licensed by the state.
The ban on powdered alcohol is immediate. The other laws take effect in July.
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