SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A new state law allows California supermarkets and large liquor stores to host free tastings of beer, wine and liquor in areas separated by rope, chain or other temporary barrier.
A permanently dedicated space was previously required for such events, restricting the numbers of retailers able to take part, according to Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Association.
“It was an economic non-starter since square footage is pretty valuable,” he said.
Under the new rule, in-store tastings by manufacturers or wholesalers are limited to one type of alcohol, be it beer, wine or liquor. Serving caps have also been established. For instance, a customer can consume no more than 8 ounces of free beer in a day, or up to three samples of wine or distilled spirits, with a wine serving not exceeding 1 ounce, and liquor, one-fourth of an ounce.
Retailers are responsible for verifying that everyone in the tasting area is at least 21 years old, while the manufacturer or wholesale distributing samples is in charge of limiting servings, according to Dombrowski.
“Only in an emergency, if someone got ill, for instance, could the retailer step in” and distribute samples, he said.
Retailers must hold an off-premise alcohol license, pay a $300 application fee and an annual cost of $261 to host tastings in-store.
CRA members are eager to take advantage of the new law, according to Dombrowski.
"Every chain said they intend to try to do it, but how often is still to be determined," he said.