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Managers of several Central Washington farmers markets say the ability to offer beer and wine tasting could boost business.

A bill allowing beer and wine sampling at the markets passed the state Senate last week and is working its way through the House.

For Eric Miller, manager of the Kittitas County Farmers Market, Senate Bill 5674 would provide a new venue for area wine and beer shops to market their products.

“It is a good recognition of the importance of the beer and wine industry in this state,” he said.

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The bill, whose co-sponsors include Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, came after a pilot program that allowed 10 farmers markets statewide to offer tasting from September 2011 to October 2012. After the pilot program was completed, the state Liquor Control Board recommended it be made permanent and open to other farmers markets.

Based on recommendations from the Liquor Board, the Senate bill restricts the number of wineries or breweries offering samples at a farmers market to three per day, and limits samples to 2 ounces of wine or beer.

Such restrictions will make the program manageable for the markets, said Don Eastridge, manager of the Yakima Farmers Market. Eastridge said several wineries have already expressed interest in participating in the tastings.

If the measure passes, Eastridge said he’ll send a letter to other wineries to gauge interest.

“Having a winery there for sampling will bring more people to the market and bring more vendors to the market,” he said.

Miller agreed that beer and wine tasting could attract new customers, such as those who attend the annual WinterHop Brewfest in downtown Ellensburg, which also houses the Kittitas County Farmers Market each Saturday from May to October.

“It’s one other avenue to catch a different group of people,” he said.

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