A new law going into effect Wednesday will allow the District’s breweries and distilleries to sell and offer samples of their quaffable products at farmers’ markets around the city.
Under the new law, farmers’ markets can apply for licenses from the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration to add DC-based alcohol manufacturers to their rosters of vendors. Farmers’ markets in Virginia and Maryland are already allowed to sell beer, wine, and spirits produced in those states.
This won’t be an open-container situation, though. While the law, officially the Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Act of 2015, will permit alcohol vendors to offer tastes, all sales must be for sealed bottles to be consumed off-the-premises.
While companies like Atlas Brew Works and New Columbia Distillers were enthusiastic when Mayor Muriel Bowser introduced the farmers’ market provision among a slate of alcohol-law reforms last year, do not expect to see their wares at your neighborhood market that quickly—the companies that operate farmers’ markets have their own rules for what can be sold.
FreshFarm Markets—which operates eight markets around the District, including the popular one in Dupont Circle—requires its vendors to source their ingredients from the Chesapeake Bay region. Many breweries use hops and grains sourced from far beyond the Washington area.
“It’s one thing to want to sell at market,” says Juliet Glass, FreshFarm’s director of communications. “It’s another thing to be market-ready.”
But Glass says FreshFarm, which has already applied for an alcohol-vending license, has “identified producers who have good local sourcing,” though she would not identify which brewers or distilleries meet the bar. And in case FreshFarm’s in-house rules prove too restrictive, the company has relaxed them in the past: in January, after years of clamoring, it started letting in local coffee roasters.
There’s other good, boozy news in the new law. While they wait to get into the farmers’ markets, DC’s breweries and distilleries can also start applying to double as after-hours entertainment facilities the can charge for admission, and as wedding venues.