How to Host Liquor Samplings in Control States

Find out about the laws that control states have in place for conducting liquor samplings, and get tips on how to host a successful retail sampling event.

If you are a beverage alcohol supplier, you may want to promote your products by hosting liquor samplings in stores or other venues. However, depending on where you operate, you may face different regulations and challenges. In this article, we will focus on how to host liquor samplings in control states, where the state government has a monopoly over the distribution and sale of some or all categories of alcoholic beverages.

What are control states?

According to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (NABCA), there are 17 control states in the United States, where the state government has full control over liquor sales and distribution. These are:

  • Alabama
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Some of these states also have local jurisdictions that can impose additional restrictions or bans on alcohol sales. Control states liquor sales are usually conducted through government-operated stores or designated agents.

What is the Liquor Control Act USA?

The Liquor Control Act USA is a federal law that was passed in 1934, following the repeal of national prohibition. The act gave states the authority to regulate the importation, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages within their borders. The act also established the Federal Alcohol Administration (FAA), which created the agency that oversees the labeling, advertising, and taxation of alcohol products at the national level, now known as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

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What laws do control states have in place regarding hosting in-store samplings?

Each control state has its own laws and regulations regarding hosting in-store samplings of liquor products. Some of the factors that may vary from state to state include:

  • The types and sizes of samples that can be offered
  • The hours and days when samplings can be conducted
  • The licensing and permitting requirements for suppliers and retailers
  • The training and certification requirements for sampling staff
  • The reporting and record keeping requirements for sampling events

For example, in Pennsylvania, suppliers can offer up to 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits per person per day at state-run liquor stores, between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Suppliers must obtain a special permit from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) and pay a fee of $150 per store per day. Sampling staff must be at least 21 years old and complete a responsible alcohol management program (RAMP) training.

In contrast, in Utah, suppliers can offer up to 0.5 ounces of distilled spirits per person per day at state-run liquor stores, between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Suppliers must obtain a special event permit from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) and pay a fee of $25 per store per day. Sampling staff must be at least 21 years old and complete an alcohol server training program.

Although Texas is not a control state, it is a Class B state with unique distribution laws. As such, anyone who wants to offer samples of alcohol in Texas must complete an online TABC certification course and carry their permit with them at all times. The course is available through several TABC-approved seller training schools and it takes about two hours to complete. You can print your official TABC certificate immediately after completion.

As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hosting liquor samplings in control states. You will need to research and comply with the specific laws and regulations of each state where you plan to conduct your events.

General tips for hosting samplings in control states

While hosting liquor samplings in control states may seem daunting, there are some general tips that can help you make your events successful and avoid any legal troubles.

Plan ahead

Apply for the necessary permits and licenses well in advance of your events. Make sure you have enough inventory, staff, equipment, and materials for your samplings. Coordinate with the store managers and staff to ensure a smooth operation.

Follow the rules

Adhere to the state and local laws and regulations regarding sampling sizes, hours, days, locations, signage, etc. Do not serve minors or visibly intoxicated persons. Keep accurate records of your events and report them as required.

Educate and engage

Use your samplings as an opportunity to educate consumers about your products and brand story. Provide information on the ingredients, production process, tasting notes, serving suggestions, etc. Encourage feedback and questions from consumers. Create a positive and memorable impression of your products.

Measure and improve

Track the results of your samplings, such as sales volume, customer satisfaction, brand awareness, etc. Analyze what worked well and what can be improved for future events. Adjust your strategy accordingly. You easily automate this process through the Tastings app and platform: https://overproof.com/tastings/.

The Takeaway

Hosting liquor samplings in control states can be a rewarding way to market your products and reach new customers. However, it also requires careful planning and compliance with various laws and regulations. By following these tips, you can host successful samplings that will boost your sales and brand recognition.

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