Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Safety and Regulatory Update Part Two

Licensing and Agent Requirements

There has been considerable confusion recently with regard to the licensure requirements for winery owners and employees when pouring or selling their wine. The locations in question include the following:
  • Winery on-premise (at the licensed winery facility) tasting rooms
  • Winery off-premise or secondary tasting rooms
  • Special occasion licensed events
  • Specialty beer and wine shops
  • Restaurants with spirits/beer/wine licenses
  • Restaurants/stores with beer/wine licenses
  • Grocery stores falling under the new sampling law
  • Your distributor’s premises
  • Industry trade shows where wineries pour for licensees (distributors or retailers)
Here is what you need to know about your requirements for each location:

Class 12 Server’s Licenses obtained through “Mandatory” Alcohol Server Training (MAST)

Of the above locations, the only ones for which Class 12 permits are required for winery owners and employees acting for the winery are winery off-premise tasting rooms and grocery stores using the new sampling permit. Class 12 permits are not required at your on-premise tasting room. The requirement for such server permits at off-premise tasting rooms and grocery stores was specifically included in the laws enabling each of these programs.

FWWS has consistently drawn a line between liquor laws focusing on public safety, which we support and seek to make simpler and more effective, and liquor laws restricting trade in wine, which we generally oppose. Server training clearly falls in the first category. Similar to first aid and CPR training, it is difficult to see any downside of MAST for you and your employees at either your on-premise tasting room, or at special occasion events where we can help non-industry members of non-profit organizations understand the rules and hazards of pouring wine. The FWWS Board encourages you to take a mandatory alcohol server course. These are available from numerous private vendors and now are also available online. Information on MAST providers can be found at the following link:


Class 8 permits

Class 8 permits allow winery owners and their employees to pour wine for licensees at trade shows which are not open to the general public. This permit appears to have been developed as a way of getting around the “money’s worth” prohibition in the liquor statute as well as the general prohibition on giving away alcohol for free in cases where admission is not charged. Since alcohol has a monetary value, and since there is no specific carve-out for trade shows (as there is, for example, for giving away a sample bottle of wine of each vintage), pouring wine for licensees is, in this case, an illegal gift.

This is yet another unintended consequence of the blanket money’s worth prohibitions in the statute. Our Craft Wineries proposal, which provides a comprehensive solution to the money’s worth issues, has faced consistent opposition from some in the industry. We will speak to the liquor Board in the coming months to explore their views on finding an alternative to class 8 permits for such trade shows. Most likely this would involve yet another “carved-out” exception to money’s worth restrictions. Given that trade tastings are vital to wine promotion, involve only licensees, and benefit all tiers of the industry, we do not see any reason that this would be a controversial approach to replacing the Class 8 permit, which serves no other purpose.

Agent’s Licenses

It has come to our attention that the WSLCB interprets current law to require that winery owners and their employees (exception: winery owners whose business is structured as a sole proprietorship) must obtain a WSLCB agent’s license to “canvass for, solicit, receive or take orders for” wine. Rather than confuse this issue with a discussion of the present interpretation, we will look to the near future. There is a provision in this year’s “omnibus” liquor law that specifically clarifies that winery owners are not required to appoint themselves or their employees as “agents” for the purpose of representing themselves in soliciting and taking orders for wine. This bill is presently on the Governor’s desk, and she is expected to sign it. We have clarified with WSLCB enforcement staff that, assuming this bill is signed as expected, the WSLCB does not intend to enforce the current interpretation in the interim before rules (WACs) are adopted to implement the new law.

We should point out that an agent’s license will still be required for non-employees who “canvass for, solicit, receive or take orders for” your wine - in other words for the sort of people and activities that many of you probably currently have agent’s licenses in place for.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Alcohol training courses are really important for employees working in licensed alcohol premises like restaurants, bars, supermarkets and a lot more. By this training, they will know the different legal responsibilities in selling and supplying of alcohol beverages, and they will know why they need to have a personal license and premise license. This training is also designed to prevent underage alcohol access for minors.