Deejays, comedians, and musicians could be cleared to drink onstage as soon as November if the state's Liquor Control Board approves a rule change now being considered.
Washington law prohibits bar and restaurant employees from drinking while on duty, and--for the purposes of enforcement--entertainers are classified as employees. That means a bar owner risks a citation whenever a musician brings a beer onstage.
"Very few, if any, other states prohibit entertainers having a drink onstage," explains Tractor Tavern's Dan Cowan, who has led the charge for a rule change. "It's very difficult when touring bands come through. They expect they can [drink]."
Visitors aren't the only entertainers keen to flout the law. "It's also hard with friends of ours who play because they think it's stupid, and that since they are friends, they can do what they want," adds Max Genereaux of Sunset Tavern.
Representatives of the Washington Restaurant Association, the Seattle Mayor's Office, and Seattle liquor licensees last month met with the Liquor Control Board to develop an acceptable proposal for revoking the rule. According to its terms, entertainers are barred from promoting drink specials and can only drink from "nondescript" containers.
"It would just be a glass," Liquor Control Board spokesperson Anne Radford clarifies. "So anyone looking would say that could be water or pop."
Cowan says the liquor control board has been "very understanding." "They obviously don't want performers drunk onstage, and nor do we," he says.
The Board is accepting public comment through Oct. 12, and will hold a public hearing in Olympia on the same day.
"We are receiving a lot of written comments from performers stating interest," Radford says.
If the proposal is approved, the new rules take effect on Nov. 19.