Washington State Drinking Laws You Might Not Know About

Have you ever been to a restaurant or bar and noticed the bartender just keeps serving an obviously intoxicated person more drinks?  Sure it seems the patron accepting the drinks is on cloud 9 having a great time and the bartender hopes their tip will increase with each new drink made, but what both of these people are unaware of is that over service of alcohol is illegal in the State of Washington.  Or have you ever seen a bartender turn and take a quick shot during a hectic night of work?  Seems like they should be allowed to drink when the bar is that crazy busy, however, drinking while at work is illegal too.

Here are a few Washington State laws pertaining to drinking alcohol that you might not know about.

1.  Over Service of Alcohol (RCW 66.44.200, WAC 314.16.150)

  • Alcohol may not be sold to an individual that is intoxicated.
  • An individual that is obviously intoxicated may not possess alcohol, open or unopened.
  • All alcohol must be removed from an overly intoxicated individual and further service of alcohol must be refused.
  • An intoxicated customer may remain at your business as long as they do not possess alcohol, this allows time for them to sober up and prevent situations like DUI (driving under the influence).

2.  Disorderly Conduct by Business Owners, Staff, or Customers (WAC 314.11.015)

  • Businesses can not allow disorderly conduct by customers, owners, or employees, they must call police if a fight breaks out etc.
  • No owner or employee may drink alcohol while working, this includes on site DJ’s, musicians, and karaoke operators.
  • Business owners and employees are not allowed to be intoxicated at their place of employment no matter if they are working or not working.

3.  Minors, Individuals Under The Age of 21(RCW 66.44.270, RCW 66.41.310, WAC 314.11.020, WAC 314.16.150)

  • Alcohol may not be sold to an individual under the age of 21 years.
  • Individuals under the age of 21 are prohibited to possess alcohol, even if the alcohol container is closed or sealed.
  • Minors are not allowed in age-restricted areas, taverns, or lounges.

Establishments that do not abide by these laws and have histories of DUI, complaints, and police referrals are often targeted by the Washington State Liquor Control Board.  The Liquor Control Board will monitor these businesses through undercover operations to observe and watch for law violations.  They will also investigate through compliance checks where they will send minors into establishments to purchase alcohol.  If laws are broken, the Liquor Control Board may issue fines, revoke licenses, and in worst case scenarios, shut a business down.


Written by S.O