Are You a Caterer  Who Wants to Add Spirits to Your Menu?

While its winter outside spring is (hopefully) just around the corner. With spring comes an increase in catered events and our officers and licensing investigators get a lot of inquiries from caterers about adding spirits sales to their menu. Below are a few things to keep in mind if you cater.  
To sell spirits at a catered event location:
  • The location must be owned, leased or operated by the caterer, or the sponsor of the event for which liquor catering services are being provided.
  • If the catered event is open to the public, the event must be sponsored by a society or organization as defined in RCW 66.24.375.
  • You cannot cater events at liquor-licensed premises.
  • Caterers are required to obtain a commissary kitchen license, a food service business permit or equivalent permit/license issued by the county or city health department.
  • Caterers are required to send a list of scheduled liquor-catered events to their regional enforcement office on the first of each month.
  • All employees that sell or serve alcohol must hold MAST permits.
 Beer/Wine Caterer
  • Must have the ability to provide and prepare minimum food services (sandwiches, salad, soup, hamburgers, pizza and fry orders) at the licensed kitchen premises.
  • Must have the necessary kitchen equipment to prepare the minimum food service.
 Spirits/Beer/Wine Caterer
  • Must have the ability to prepare and serve at least eight complete meals at the licensed kitchen premises.
  • Must have kitchen capacity and necessary equipment to prepare and cook complete meals.

Compliance Checks: Fact or Fiction

Justin Nordhorn, Chief of Enforcement

The mission of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) focuses on public safety and compliance. Preventing youth access to alcohol is a major priority for the LCB, and officers conduct many activities to ensure businesses are selling legally and responsibly. These activities include providing training classes, conducting unannounced premises visits and unannounced compliance checks.
The subject of compliance checks draws many questions for our enforcement officers, and there are many misperceptions of the laws, rules and procedures associated with them. A common misconception is that the LCB is trying to trick licensees into getting violations. Contrary to popular belief, the LCB is very transparent on how compliance checks are conducted. Our goal is to gain and maintain compliance; the LCB wants to see refusals to sell to minors, not sales.
The subject of compliance checks draws many questions for our enforcement officers, and there are many misperceptions of the laws, rules and procedures associated with them. A common misconception is that the LCB is trying to trick licensees into getting violations. Contrary to popular belief, the LCB is very transparent on how compliance checks are conducted. Our goal is to gain and maintain compliance; the LCB wants to see refusals to sell to minors, not sales.
State law requires the identification (ID) to be checked of anyone purchasing alcohol.
There is no state law that requires licensees to check every patron’s ID. However, state law does prohibit licensees/employees from selling alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. In order to ensure alcohol is only being furnished to people over 21 years of age, ID should be checked for age verification of anyone appearing youthful.
Remember, a person’s age can be difficult to assess. If you are not sure check their ID. To be safe many businesses require everyone’s ID to be checked; those policies are at the discretion of the liquor licensee.
Minors working for the LCB can use a fake ID during compliance checks.
Minors working for the LCB are only allowed to carry their true ID showing their true date of birth. If an ID is presented for an alcohol purchase by an underage LCB investigative aide, it must be their real ID.
In Washington state, anyone who receives their state-issued ID or driver’s license before their 21st birthday will have an ID in a vertical format. After a person turns 21, and they get a new ID that is horizontal. Any vertical ID presented for proof of age should be closely scrutinized because the ID holder received it prior to turning 21.
LCB investigative aides cannot lie during a compliance check.
We allow investigative aides to provide a positive answer if someone asks if they are 21 years of age. The LCB allows this because it provides integrity to the checks. Checks are designed to assess how employees and licensees will respond in the event a minor is trying to purchase alcohol. Since any minor (not working with the LCB) will tell a clerk they are of legal age, the LCB allows investigative aides to respond in the same manner.
This is the only deception the LCB allows the investigative aides to conduct. Remember, if you ask for an ID you will receive the minor’s true ID for proof of age—an ID showing them to be under 21 years of age. Simply asking someone how old they are is not proof of age.
LCB investigative aides are disguised to look older than their true age.
The LCB does not use investigative aides who are deceptively mature. Investigative aides are allowed to wear their normal clothes and what is considered common attire for youth in their age group. Using deceptively mature youth would not provide a true assessment of compliance.
The purpose of a compliance check is to assess compliance at a given location. Sometimes the need arises from citizen and/or police department allegations of selling alcohol to minors. Other reasons could include officer observations of a high volume of youthful appearing patrons, or as a matter of prevention. The best practices for improving youth access compliance have been identified as conducting three compliance checks per location per year. Given current resource levels, three checks per location per year is not common. Ensuring your employees have the training, tools and understanding is critical to successful compliance.
Learn More
Enforcement officers frequently teach classes on responsible sales, which include checking IDs and understanding over-service laws. If you would like to host a free training for employees, our officers will be happy to attend and provide training to groups of 10 or more for an onsite class. Please contact your local officer for further details.
Other resources available for a better understanding of compliance checks may be found in Washington Administrative Codes (WAC) 314-11-31, and for in-house compliance check approval protocol and approval, in WAC 314-11-25.

Spring and Summer Events

Special event season is coming soon. Don’t put off getting your liquor license or permit! To ensure that you receive your license you must apply for it at least 45 days in advance of your event. The most common events need either a Special Occasion license or a Banquet Permit. A Special Occasion License allows non-profits to sell alcohol at an event or fundraiser advertised and open to the public. Find more information about Special Occasion Licenses on our website.
If you are having a family get together at an event space (like a wedding, reunion, etc.), you will need a banquet permit to serve alcohol. Banquet Permits can be applied for and purchased online here.

Important Information for Distillers

Regarding Refund of Distributor License Fees
Court of Appeals decision number 48807-8-II, issued on August 8, 2017, held that the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) rules requiring distillers and certificate of approval holders to pay distributor license fees when they acted as a distributor were invalid.  It is clear from the ruling that the LCB is required to stop collecting the fees after the date of the decision.  We have stopped requiring the payment of the fees and any fees collected after the date of the decision will be refunded.
What was less clear were several additional questions:
  1. Is the LCB required to refund fees paid prior to the decision? 
  2. If so, what is the time period for the refund?
  3. Is the LCB required to pay interest on the amounts to be refunded?
Based on prior case law, we believe agency is only required to refund fees collected prior to the decision for a period of three years. At this time, the LCB will be issuing refunds of all distributor fees paid by distillers since August of 2014. Refunds of the distributor fees will be processed by February 28, 2018.  

Making Changes to Floor Plans

If you plan on making physical changes to your business you need to submit your floor plans for approval before beginning any construction. To get approval you need to fill out the Alteration Request Form and submit it along with accompanying photos and two sets of floor plans. Details for the photo requirements and floor plans can be found in the form. 
If you have any questions please contact our Customer Service unit, (360) 664-1600, press option 1.

Alcohol Rules Update

Several rulemakings are currently underway and are detailed below. As always, we encourage your participation in the rulemaking process and value public input. You can find information about any current rulemaking on the Proposed Rules webpage under Laws and Rules on the WLSCB’s website. You can also find additional materials related to rulemaking items brought to Board meetings on the Board’s webpage under Board Meeting Schedule and Informationhere
Pre-proposal filings (CR 101) 
CR 101's are the first notice needed to start rule-making, it informs the public that the Board is considering writing rules on the topic and gathering information. Stakeholders, industry and the public are invited to participate in the process. No proposed rule language in this stage but this information gathered will shape the language. 
Curbside Grocery Service - Liquor

Proposed rulemakings (CR 102)
CR102's are the second step, and used to notify the public of the proposed rules. You have a minimum of 35 days to provide written comments. The LCB holds a public hearing, so you can provide your comments on the proposed rules in person. If you can’t attend the meeting, you can send written comments by the comment deadline.
The LCB considers comments, and if there are no major changes, they move forward into rule adoption. If public comment leads to a substantial change in the rules, the draft is rewritten to incorporate comments, and a supplemental rulemaking is filed.  
How can you participate in the rulemaking process? 
Check out our Proposed Rules webpage under Laws and Rules on the WLSCB’s website and submit comments to All rulemaking activity occurs at Board meetings. You can access Board agendas and meeting materials at the Board’s webpage: Board Meeting Schedule and Information.

Did You Know We Broadcast Our Bi-Weekly Board Meetings?

We broadcast on two channels, Periscope and GoToWebinar (GTW). You can find the GTW links on the Board's schedule page a couple days in advance of the meeting. 

Alcohol Impact Areas

What are they and how do they impact your business? Alcohol Impact Areas are a tool for local authorities to mitigate problems associated with chronic public inebriation or illegal activities linked to the sale of alcohol. Using this tool local authorities can designate a geographic area of the town/city/county (not the entire jurisdiction) where the sale of of high alcohol, low-cost beer and wine is restricted.
Prior to adoption the local jurisdiction must first attempt a voluntary Alcohol Impact Area asking stores selling high-alcohol content low-cost beers and wines to remove these products from their shelves. If the local authority is unsuccessful in adopting a voluntary Alcohol Impact Area they can petition the Board to make it mandatory. 
Once an Alcohol Impact Area is recognized, conditions or restrictions may be applied, such as:
  • Restricting the off-premises sale of certain alcohol products (banned products list)
  • Restricting the business hours of operation for off-premises consumption liquor sales
  • Restrictions on container sizes available for sale
Currently, there are Alcohol Impact Areas within the cities of Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver (voluntary), and Spokane.
For additional information on Alcohol Impact Areas, please visit our website.

Licensing Webinars

The WSLCB Licensing Division provides free WebEx classes to answer questions about a variety of alcohol and cannabis related topics. Please check out the upcoming classes and sign up for the topics that interest you.  We record each session, so if you missed a session you are interested in, check out our archives.

Promote public safety and trust through fair administration and enforcement of liquor, cannabis, tobacco, and vapor laws.
-WSLCB Mission Statement
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