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OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Legislation currently under consideration here would allow Washington state grocery stores measuring more than 12,000 square feet to offer shoppers free two-ounce samples of beer and wine, something only specialty stores can do now.
According to bill sponsor Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Seattle), SB 5682 would help consumers find out what's available in terms of alcoholic beverages, and learn more about Washington state's wineries and microbrews.
Describing the grocery industry as "very much" in favor of the bill, Clif Finch, v.p. governmental affairs for the Washington Food Industry, a statewide trade association, told Progressive Grocer, "It’s another way for supermarkets to differentiate themselves and provide better service."
Finch added that the bill is modeled on "the Oregon plan" -- a similar law enacted a few years ago in Washington's neighboring state -- which so far has enjoyed "complete success." Noting that it was the first year such a bill has been proposed in Washington state, he said he was hopeful that it would pass, but that he would have "a clearer picture [of how it would fare] in the next couple of weeks."
Rick Garza of the state Liquor Control Board said that it was prepared to take a neutral position to a substitute bill, which has been amended to address such issues of concern as implementing server training, which the Oregon law requires; having the retailer and not the manufacturer do the in-store sampling; and giving rule-making authority to the state Liquor Control Board.
According to an earlier news report, smaller businesses and exempted independent grocers had expressed opposition to the bill, which stood to shut them out of a practice open to chain grocery stores and specialty stores.