Starting in September, a handful of farmers markets in the state will be allowed to offer beer and wine tasting to customers as part of a 14-month pilot project approved by the Legislature.
House Bill 1172 creating the program was signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire on Thursday, allowing the state Liquor Control Board to move ahead with selecting 10 farmers markets to participate from Sept. 1 through Nov. 1, 2012.
Linda Hall, manager of the Prosser Farmers Market, said having the bill signed was "good news."
The Prosser market hopes to be one of the 10 selected for the pilot project, she said.
"We're just kind of waiting for the next step," Hall said. "We do have one winery that sells at our market. ... It would be nice for them to be able to do sampling."
Wineries and microbreweries currently can be licensed by the board to sell bottled products at farmers markets to be consumed elsewhere, but can't offer samples or tastings.
Proponents of the bill told lawmakers that allowing tastings would help Washington wine and beer producers increase sales.
Only farmers markets already licensed to have beer or wine sold on the premises will be allowed to participate in the pilot tasting project.
Samples would have to be 2 ounces or less, up to a total of 4 ounces per customer, per day, according to a legislative staff report.
Customers would have to stay at the stall while sampling and wouldn't be able to carry samples elsewhere in the market, and a winery or microbrewery would have to have food available or be next to a food vendor offering prepared food.
The bill requires the Liquor Control Board to report on the results of the project to appropriate legislative committees by Dec. 1, 2012.
* Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org