Blog of Wax Legal Corner: WSLCB Proposes Loosening Up a Bit

This is very exciting news for musicians who perform in Washington State. If you’re neither a musician nor a Washington State resident, I beg your indulgence for a minute.

For years now – I don’t know exactly when it started, only that enforcement has been more and more stringent over the past few years – there has been a rule in effect courtesy the wonderful folks at the Washington State Liquor Control Board stating that musicians (or any entertainers) may not imbibe alcohol while performing on stage at any venue in the State of Washington. The rationale for this, as I understand it, is that while performers are performing on stage they are “employees” of the venue, and of course employees should not be drinking while on duty. This sort of makes sense, except for the fact that it doesn’t make any sense at all. I don’t need to tell you the many ways in which the band up on stage is different from the guy taking your money at the door, or the bartender, or the sound guy.

Almost everywhere else in the country, since the end of prohibition, it has been customary for performing musicians to have a beverage of their choice to sip from in a responsible manner between songs. Any irresponsible behavior that might result from over-imbibing is covered by existing state law, and this prohibition has done nothing over the years to improve the safety or quality of life of performers, venue staff, or concert attendees. This rule has managed to make Washington seem even more puritanical than my home state of Massachusetts (where until recently you couldn’t bowl and drink at the same time), and that is not easy.

It is long past time for a change, and I am beyond pleased that the Liquor Board is considering said change. (I will gladly buy a drink for whichever liquor licensee initially petitioned the WSLCB for this change.) Needless to say, the first time I play a show after this rule is changed, I will happily raise a toast (in a nondescript container, of course) to the WSLCB. Read the text of the proposed change here, and if you support it send an e-mail to rules@liq.wa.gov by October 12th.

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One Response to Blog of Wax Legal Corner: WSLCB Proposes Loosening Up a Bit

  1. Brad says:

    This is especially interesting considering the opposing law in New York where you’re not allowed to smoke in a restaurant or bar UNLESS you’re performing on stage. There is some loophole that says if smoking adds to the performance then you’re allowed to do it. It means musicians, performance artists, comedians, etc. to smoke up. Surely drinking adds to the artistic integrity of a musical performance. Can you imagine a sober Guided by Voices show?

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