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Arizona Grocery Stores Could Offer Alcohol Samples

PHOENIX -- A bill currently under consideration by Arizona's state legislature would permit shoppers to sample beer, whiskey and wine inside grocery stores, among many other changes, according to a report in the Arizona Republic. The legislation represents the first big revision of the state's liquor laws in almost a decade.

The liquor-sampling section of House Bill 2647 is proving to be among the more controversial. State lawmakers have rejected such provisions in the past, but observers believe it has more of a chance of passing as part of a wide-ranging bill.

"The idea of pregnant ladies and others going into a store to drink beer and go to the parking lot and get in the car kind of bothers me," Sen. Robert Cannell, D-Yuma, a pediatrician, told the publication. "What's to stop someone from going from one store to the next? The liquor lobby wants it one way -- their way."

According to Leesa Berens Morrison, director of the state liquor department, sampling would be closely monitored by undercover investigators, and the requirements would be as follows:

--The sampling would be limited to three ounces of beer, 1.5 ounces of wine, or 0.5 ounces of distilled spirits per person per day.

--The liquor wholesaler or producer must tell the liquor department 10 days before holding a sampling.

--Sampling would be limited to 12 days a year.

--The area of the store where the sampling is held must be cordoned off.

Additionally, the law would let grocery workers sample wine or liquor in connection with their training. Morrison, who foresees no serious problems if sampling is adopted in Arizona, noted, "Some customers aren't going to be willing to spend $150 for a bottle of liquor without knowing what it is or what it tastes like."

Another of the bill's provisions affecting supermarkets is the one requiring the state to issue new liquor licenses for the first time since 1988, because of demand from grocery stores and restaurants in the state, whose population is booming. The legislation would cause Morrison's department to issue approximately 120 licenses annually for the next five years, generating about $6 million in revenue that would go to upgrading the department and to the state.

The bill has been approved by the Arizona's House of Representatives and is scheduled for a floor vote in the state senate this week. It is expected that the bill will be amended and then sent back to the House for a final vote.
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