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8:27 PM Sun, Sept. 23rd

City of Prescott weighs liquor 'sampling' at local stores

Two Prescott Safeway grocery stores are applying to the Arizona Department of Liquor License and Control for a new Series 9S liquor license.

The Prescott City Council will decide whether to recommend approval of the new "sampling" license when it meets at 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon at City Hall, 201 S. Cortez St.

The applications for the new license, which went into effect July 29, are the first the city has received.

The Arizona Legislature approved HB 2002 that created the new sampling license. The House of Representatives approved the bill in April by a vote of 54-1, with five members not voting. The Senate approved the legislation in March by a vote of 56-0 with three members not voting.

The new Series 9S license is not transferable. The new law allows customers to sample beer, cooler-type products, wine and distilled spirits on-site, before making a purchase.

Lee Hill, communications and special project director at the state department of liquor, said the new Series 9S license was proposed by industry leaders to legalize what was already happening in some stores.

Hill said that under a "loose interpretation" of the law, liquor stores conducted liquor samplings of products meant to be consumed off-premise.

"Grocery stores are not bars. What the new license does is make things clean," Hill noted. "Businesses must purchase liquor specifically for sampling and adhere to strict record-keeping requirements. Because it is such a highly regulated item, we want to be pro-active in promoting anything where businesses can be successful."

Tracy Peters, manager of the Safeway store on White Spar Road, referred The Daily Courier to the corporation's public relations department. Cathy Kloos, director of public affairs and government relations for Safeway, said the current Series 9 liquor license allows for retail sales of beer, wine and spirits for off-premise consumption.

"Sampling can be conducted on the premises only by an employee of a producer or wholesale licensee by giving the State Liquor Department not less than 10 days notice of the location, date and time of the event," Kloos noted. "Series 9 licensees may hold up to 12 sampling events per year for no more than three hours each day, with only one wholesaler or producer at a time."

The new Series 9S license, would allow Safeway to conduct samplings on the premises by store employees without restriction on the number of events per year or length of time of the sampling.

"Safeway has held many sampling events in our stores in the past that have been conducted by the wholesaler or producer," Kloos explained. "These events are great to do around the holidays. It provides an educational tool for our customers who may not have a lot of knowledge about wine or spirits but would like to make a selection for a special party or dinner."

She added that while the 9S license would allow Safeway to conduct samplings at any time, "We will likely continue to conduct the samplings around the holidays. We will follow the guidelines that were a part of the old law as well as the requirements under the law. While the new law doesn't require it, we will have a designated area in the store where the sampling will occur."

Kloos stated that any employee conducting a sampling would be 21 or older, and "schooled in selling and serving alcohol to our customers."

In addition to tracking the samples provided, Kloos said the employee would be required to check the ID of customers under the age of 30 and have them sign a log book.

"While it is important to Safeway to obtain this privilege, we also understand the obligations we have as a licensee. We take those obligations very seriously," Kloos concluded.

Liquor stores that receive the new sampling license must follow the following requirements:

• All sampling items must be kept locked when the sampling area is not staffed.

• All sales must come from the stores' supplies.

• Stores cannot charge customers for the samples.

• A store employee must supervise all product sampling.

• Stores must keep accurate records of all sampling.

• Sampling is limited to three ounces of beer or cooler-type produces; one ounce of wine; and one ounce of distilled spirits per person, per brand, per day.

• Sampling must take place on store premises.