Distilleries toasting new law ahead of holidays


There's finally a chink in the armor of an old California liquor law that dates back to 1934 and the days of prohibition -- something Bay Area distillers say will be good for them and for the California economy.

"When you consider somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of the economy is fueled by small businesses, you really want to do something to support small business growth," Lance winters with St. George Spirits told ABC7 News.

Starting January 1, like wineries and breweries before them, distilleries will be able to charge customers for tastings rather than give their samples away for free. Berkeley Democrat Nancy Skinner sponsored Assembly Bill 933, now called the "Taste California Act."

"This is not only an industry that is using California products and is California based, but they are hiring Californians. These are California jobs," she said.

Farid Dormishian owns 6-month-old Falcon Spirits in Richmond. He says tasting is essential to marketing the unique adult beverages he and others create. "When people come and taste it and they see how we make it, it makes a big difference. It just makes it more personal," he said.

Starting Jan. 1, distillers can charge for tastings, but the law stops there. They still can't sell their bottled product at their facilities.

"Maybe it wasn't everything that was hoped for, but it was still a huge success, so I'm here to celebrate the success and the progress that was made," said Democratic Assm. Rob Bonta of Oakland.

Distillers and their supporters hope it doesn't take another 80 years to make more changes to the decades-old law.

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