State bill waiving liquor license fees ‘exactly the kind of help bars and restaurants need’

Mar 1, 2021, 5:43 AM | Updated: 10:36 am
Liquor license...

Gov. Jay Inslee conducted a rare at-home bill signing on Sunday, officially enacting a measure that waives the annual liquor license fee for bars and restaurants across Washington.

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The bill’s purpose was to provide bars and restaurants with added relief over the course of a year where many have struggled due to the pandemic. According to KIRO Nights host and Streamline Tavern owner Mike Lewis, it’s also a proposal that could prove essential for the industry.

“I think it’s great news,” he told KIRO Radio. “This is exactly the kind of help bars and restaurants need, and it’s creative and terrific for the governor’s office to do this.”

Typically, Washington businesses with liquor licenses are subject to a pricey renewal fee, ranging from over $100 for beer and wine specialty outfits, to as high as $2,500 for serving beer, wine, and spirits. With ESSB 5272 now in effect, that fee is waived, providing an easy pathway to relief that doesn’t necessitate raising or distributing any new funds.

“It’s essentially like giving every liquor license holder a $2,500 grant,” Lewis described. “Without actually having to disperse any money, you simply don’t charge them something, and I think it’s easy from an implementation standpoint.”

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Inslee made the decision to sign the bill from home on Sunday rather than at his desk on Monday to ensure that it goes into effect as quickly as possible. Because the bill states that it can only be implemented on the second calendar month after its effective date, waiting until March 1 would have delayed its implementation until May 1. With the bill signed on the last day of February instead, it will now go into effect on April 1.

The bill passed with broad bipartisan support in the state Legislature, garnering a 48-1 vote in the Senate and passing by 93-4 margin in the House.

Washington’s restaurants and bars are currently able to host indoor dining at 25% capacity as part of Phase 2 reopening guidelines, with additional capacity permitted for outdoor seating.

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State bill waiving liquor license fees ‘exactly the kind of help bars and restaurants need’