ESSHB 1480 was signed into law and became effective in April 2021, and it extends many of the privileges granted to licensees during the Covid-19 pandemic in an effort to promote public safety and ease the financial burden on licensees.
The bill does three primary things:
It extends the curb-ide and to-go privileges for growlers, beer and wine by the glass, and pre-mixed cocktails or cocktail kits.
It extends the relaxed regulation of outdoor consumption areas for on-site consumption licensees, and
It requires the LCB to consider relaxing the meal requirements for spirits, wine and beer restaurants, beer and wine restaurants, and caterers.
The draft conceptual rules developed by the WSLCB mostly hit the mark and work primarily off existing language.
There are a few key takeaways:
- Draft conceptual outdoor alcohol service requirements may be burdensome for microbreweries and wineries because they require that on-premises consumption licensees obtain a building with indoor dining capacity. As most tasting rooms lack dining capacity, and most microbreweries utilize a majority of their building space for on-site production, such a requirement could prove prohibitive. Flexibility in the rules pertaining to the indoor dining space requirement would permit more licensee participation in outdoor alcohol service.
- Line of site requirements could be costly for certain licensees. The draft conceptual rules require that a MAST permitted server be present in the outdoor service area at all times that patrons are present unless the indoor service area is directly accessible from the outdoor service area or there is a direct line of site from the indoor service area to the outdoor service area. Flexibility in these rules may provide more financially feasible alternatives for licensees, such as utilizing cameras surveillance to establish a direct line of site from the indoor facility to the outdoor service area.
- Shared outdoor alcohol service areas are permitted provided the licensees’ property parcels are connected. The licensees must create and utilize a plan that dictates how the responsibility for outdoor service will be shared among the licensees. The requirements for separation of sales and product are reminiscent of the rotating proprietorship rules, and are not terribly burdensome, given the financial advantage of sharing the cost of an outdoor space.
- The draft conceptual rules amend the definitions of entree, side dish, and small although not substantively, and they reduce the food requirements for restaurants and caterers by half.
Draft conceptual rules are part of a CR 101 inquiry process and are not yet proposed rules Ideally, the WSLCB will include some flexibility on a few of the burdensome draft provisions when it does issue CR 102 proposed rules.