It’s official – Washington state restaurants will be able to sell beer, wine and cocktails to go until July 1, 2023. The extension of the temporary rule change comes from the passage of House Bill 1480, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) agency-request legislation, which Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law on April 14.
The bill extends several of the temporary allowances for liquor licensees that the board created during the pandemic like curbside service, alcohol delivery and takeout, premixed cocktails, and cocktail kits. Businesses may sell mini bottles of spirits as part of a kit without being obligated to pay spirits and liter taxes, however, the bottle sizes are limited to 50 milliliters.
In the bill’s first hearing on Feb. 11 in front of the House Commerce & Gaming Committee, prime sponsor Rep. Drew MacEwen (R-Union) said “The industry has demonstrated that they can safely operate with these measures that have temporarily been in place and I think that the LCB has been a good partner with hospitality in this.”
The bill also codifies other temporary allowances such as the ability to serve samples for beer and wine at a farmers’ market without being required to serve food. It also gives authority to the LCB to engage in rulemaking on extended outdoor service areas and relaxed meal requirements. Read the bill in its entirety here.
Multiple attempts were made to roll the bill back to July 2022, but the Washington Hospitality Association, Washington Wine Institute and the Washington Brewers Guild fought to keep the 2023 end date. Katie Doyle government affairs manager for the Washington Hospitality Association also told members of the House Commerce & Gaming Committee that industry recovery will likely take several years and noted that takeout and delivery services will be instrumental in the revitalization of the industry. This extension will accommodate the inevitable shift in the restaurant model.
While the changes are set to expire mid-2023, the Liquor and Cannabis board included a study in the bill and will have a chance to evaluate the efficacy and safety of the changes prior to expiration, and will report back to the Legislature in December 2022. The Hospitality Association and other stakeholders look forward to participating in the study with the hope to make to-go practices more permanent in Washington state.