From wine growers to farmers market leaders to state representatives, speakers at a House committee hearing to expand sampling of alcoholic drinks in Washington were generally supportive of the idea.
The House Committee on State Government and Tribal Affairs on Wednesday heard widespread positive testimony on two bills, HB 1202 and HB 1172, that would set up pilot projects to try spirits sampling at liquor stores and beer and wine sampling at farmers markets.
If passed, the bills would expand upon a 2010 measure that allows grocery stores to get a license from the liquor control board to provide on-premises beer and wine samples, a program that liquor board representatives say has been largely successful.
Supporters of the bills, sponsored by Rep. Sam Hunt and Rep. Phyllis Kenney, argued that most states allow sampling and the restrictions included in the bills would make sure it happened in a careful, controlled way.
“Wines have been kind of a godsend for our operation—it has allowed us to keep our people employed, pay mortgages, etc.,” said Wade Bennett, a farmer and wine maker who testified at the hearing in support of the farmers market bill.
“We think it’s very important to our prosperity,” he said of the bill.
Others who testified at the hearing pointed out the benefits of consumer education on both spirits and beer and wine, which could boost sales of lesser known, more expensive and local products.
“This offers consumers the opportunity to come in, speak to somebody who’s educated about the product and before they spend anywhere from $20-100 they can have the opportunity to sample that product,” said Kristin Adams of the Washington Distillery Representatives Association speaking in favor of the spirits sampling bill.
The bills would limit the size of samples to one-fourth ounce for hard alcohol and two ounces for beer and wine and would limit the number of samples a single customer could have.
Rep. Cary Condotta, a committee member, said the issue of alcoholic drink sampling was less controversial than it used to be mainly because the regulations written into the grocery store sampling measure seemed to be working well.
“We have not had a problem with any of these, and a lot of these bills have gone through,” he said.