Last week Washington State approved three bills modifying their alcohol regulations. One bill allows beer connoisseurs to fill up their “growlers” with local brews on tap at specialty-beer retail stores. Previously, only taverns and brewpubs could fill growlers. Washington is home to more than 140 microbreweries, many of which do not bottle their product for retail sales. Before the amendment, consumers who wanted to try these microbrews meant visiting the brewery or stopping at taverns that offer them on tap. The Legislature also passed a bill that permits Washington wineries and breweries to offer tastings at local farmers markets.

The third bill permits restaurants to waive corkage fees when it is included in an agreement to promote tourism. This bill rose out of promotions once practiced in part of the state’s wine country. Now tourists may bring in a bottle from a local winery to a restaurant, for example, and not be charged a corkage fee. Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is expected to sign the bill into law in the next few weeks. This bill would legalize Yakima’s Corkage Free Zone program, which launched in September 2009 with downtown restaurants agreeing to waive the corkage fee for wines purchased from nearby wineries or wine shops on the same day. The state Liquor Control Board had deemed the program illegal in November, contending that when restaurants offered free corkage for certain locally purchased wines, they were creating exclusive agreements with those wineries, which it said was not allowed under current laws. Ultimately, though, the Board supported the bill.


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