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AGO 1996 No. 4 - February 29, 1996
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Christine Gregoire | 1993-2004 | Attorney General of Washington

LIQUOR - LIQUOR CONTROL BOARD - WINERIES - BREWERIES - Authority of Liquor Control Board to appoint vendor to sell limited line of spirituous liquor.

The Liquor Control Board does not have the statutory authority to appoint a winery or brewery as a liquor vendor to sell only the spirituous liquor that the winery or brewery produces.

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February 29, 1996 

Joe McGavick, Chairman
Mike Murphy, Member
Jack Rabourn, Member
Washington State Liquor Control Board
P.O. Box 43075
Olympia, WA 98504-3075
Cite as:  AGO 1996 No. 4                                                                 

 Dear Chairman McGavick and Messrs. Murphy and Rabourn:

             By letter previously acknowledged, you have asked for an opinion regarding the authority of the Washington State Liquor Control Board (Board) to appoint vendors to sell spirituous liquor.  I have paraphrased your questions as follows.

 1.   Does RCW 66.08.050(2) authorize the Board to appoint a winery or brewery as a liquor vendor to sell only spirituous liquor that the winery or brewery produces?[1]

2.   If the answer to Question 1 is yes, may the Board continue such vendor appointments after a state liquor store is established within the city, town, or community where the vendor is located?[2]

 SHORT ANSWER

             For the reasons explained below, we conclude that RCW 66.08.050(2) does not authorize the Board to appoint a winery or brewery to be a liquor vendor for the purpose of selling only products that the winery or brewery produces.  In that your second question is predicated on an affirmative answer to your first question, an answer that we do not give, we do not reach your second question.

 ANALYSIS

 QUESTION 1

 Does RCW 66.08.050(2) authorize the Board to appoint a winery or brewery as a liquor vendor to sell only spirituous liquor that the winery or brewery produces?

             We begin our analysis of your first inquiry with some general background.  In Washington, the state controls the retail sale of spirituous liquor.  In part, it does so by authorizing the Board to establish state liquor stores.  Under RCW 66.08.050, the Board is to “determine the localities within which state liquor stores are to be established throughout the state, and the number and situation of the stores in each locality”.  The management and supervision of such stores is vested in the Board.  RCW 66.08.020.[3]

            In addition to establishing state liquor stores, the Board also has authority to appoint liquor vendors under limited circumstances.  The Board's authority in this respect is provided by RCW 66.08.050(2), as follows:

 The board, subject to the provisions of this title and the regulations, shall

           ...

(2) appoint in cities and towns and other communities, in which no state liquor store is located, liquor vendors.  Such liquor vendors shall be agents of the board and be authorized to sell liquor to such persons, firms or corporations as provided for the sale of liquor from a state liquor store, and such vendors shall be subject to such additional rules and regulations consistent with this title as the board may require[.]

             In determining the Board's authority under this provision, we are guided by rules of statutory construction.  Two such rules are of particular relevance to your inquiries.  First, the goal of statutory construction is to give effect to the intent of the Legislature.  State v. Pacheco, 125 Wn.2d 150, 154, 882 P.2d 183 (1994).  In arriving at that intent, one looks to the language used by the Legislature in the context of the statute as a whole.  State v. Talley, 122 Wn.2d 192, 213, 858 P.2d 217 (1993).

             Here, the language used by the Legislature gives the Board authority to appoint vendors only “in cities and towns and other communities, in which no state liquor store is located”.  RCW 66.08.050(2).  This restriction certainly suggests that the Legislature intended to allow the Board to establish retail outlets for spirituous liquor in those areas that otherwise would not have reasonable access to a state liquor store.[4]

             RCW 66.08.050(2) also provides that such vendors shall be authorized “to sell liquor to persons, firms or corporations as provided for the sale of liquor from a state liquor store”.  This language further suggests that the Legislature had in mind vendors who could provide service to persons and entities much the same as would be provided by a state liquor store.

             We also believe that the existence of specific, detailed licensing statutes relating to wineries and breweries—statutes that currently do not authorize such entities to sell spirituous liquor at retail under a winery or brewery license—also support our conclusion.  See generally chapter 66.24 RCW.[5]

             Thus, based on its language and its context, we conclude that in enacting RCW 66.08.050(2), the Legislature intended to authorize the Board to appoint a liquor vendor only in an area having no state liquor store, to serve the function that a state liquor store otherwise would serve. 

             As we understand your first question, appointing wineries or breweries as vendors would not be for the purpose of providing reasonable access to the functional equivalent of a state liquor store.  Instead, it presumably would be to allow the winery or brewery to market a single or very limited line of spirituous liquor(s) that the winery or brewery produces.  In our opinion, RCW 66.08.050(2) does not authorize appointment of wineries or breweries as liquor vendors under such circumstances.

             Your second question is predicated on an affirmative answer to your first question—an answer that we do not give.  Consequently, we do not reach your second inquiry.

              We trust that this opinion will be of assistance to you.

                                                                         Sincerely,
                                                                        MAUREEN HART
                                                                        Senior Assistant Attorney General



[1]               Spirits are beverages which contain “alcohol obtained by distillation, including wines exceeding twenty-four percent of alcohol by volume”.  RCW 66.08.010(28).

[2]               As originally framed, the Board's questions contemplate a specific situation and ask how the Board should proceed with regard to that situation.  A formal opinion of the Attorney General's Office is neither intended to nor well-suited to providing legal advice regarding an ongoing fluid and fact-specific situation.  Thus, we have paraphrased your questions to identify the legal issues that they raise.  In this way, we hope to provide assistance on those matters of concern to the Board that may be answered by a legal opinion.

[3]               The retail sale of spirituous liquor by the drink also is regulated and requires a Class H liquor license.  RCW 66.24.400.

[4]               In this regard, see AGO 57-58 No. 211, at page 3, concluding that under a prior but very similar version of this statute, the Board was not authorized to establish a liquor vendor in an incorporated city or town where a state liquor store was located.

[5]               Presently, under statutorily prescribed circumstances, a licensed domestic winery may sell table and fortified wine, in bottles and original packages, and may provide single-serving samples of such wine to customers for sales promotion.  RCW 66.24.170, .370.   However, under current statutes, no domestic winery license, as such, authorizes the sale of spirituous liquor.  Similarly, under statutorily prescribed circumstances, a licensed brewery may sell beer at retail for consumption on or off premises and may provide single-serving samples for sales promotion.  RCW 66.24.240, .330, .360.  However, presently, no brewery license, as such, authorizes the sale of spirituous liquor.  Only by securing a class H liquor license for a restaurant on or adjacent to brewery or winery premises, would a brewery or winery be authorized to sell spirituous liquor and then, only by the drink, not by the bottle.  RCW 66.28.010(1); RCW 66.24.400.

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