Legislative: Washington Governor Signs New Rules for Craft Distilling

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On March 20, 2008, Washington State's Governor Gregoire signed SHB 2959, relating to Craft Distilleries. While still flawed, this allows for several key provision in Washington State's Liquor Laws that assist the Craft Distillery. Before this law, there was no distinction between large producers and craft producers of spirits. This changes that with a license price that reflects better upon the lower end of the production scale, going from $2,000 per year to $100.

But the most important part of the bill is allowing for on site tasting and sale of spirits. This is absolutely key to the success of the smaller scale producers and is hugely welcomed by the distilling community in Washington. Like wineries or breweries, distilling is now defined as an agricultural endeavor and will now enjoy some of the same on site commercial capabilities with them.

The flaws that remain are the requirement that the liquor that is sold and tasted on premise must still be purchased from State. This implies that the liquor still needs to be shipped from the distillery to Olympia, then to a local liquor store and then purchased by the distillery for on site samples and sales. But these improvements in the environment for the Craft Distiller are very welcome.

- Defines 'Craft Distilleries' as producing less than 20,000 gallons and at least half the raw materials are grown in Washington State.
- For Distilleries Producing less than 20,000 gallons, the annual state license fee is reduced from $2000 to $100.
- Allows Craft Distilleries to sell up to 2 liters of spirits for off premise consumption per customer.
- Allows Craft Distilleries to provide 1/2 ounce samples of spirits of it's own production, maximum of 2 ounces per customer.
- Makes alcohol server permits mandatory for serving samples at a distillery.

The full text of HSB 2959 can be found HERE.