Can Licensees in Oregon and Washington “Comp” Drinks? The answer is yes, but …
“Comp” drinks can be a useful tool for licensees in some situations.
While comping drinks is okay under limited circumstances in both Oregon and Washington, advertising “free” drinks or having business practices or promotions involving “free” drinks is generally prohibited. The OLCC and WSLCB will scrutinize any such program and licensees should take to stay within the rules.
In Washington, comping alcoholic beverages to guests is permitted under limited circumstances, such as:
- For special occasions, such as birthdays or anniversaries;
- To compensate a guest for a bad meal or poor service; or
- To allow the guest to taste the product before purchasing it.
Importantly, free alcohol cannot be used or advertised as a business promotion.
In Oregon, comping alcoholic beverages to guests is permitted under similar circumstances. That being said, businesses should be careful about establishing sound policies and practices around “comping” drinks to avoid abuse. For an interesting take on this, read a blog post from Jeffrey Morgenthaler here.
However, advertising free alcoholic beverages is generally prohibited. Also, alcoholic beverages cannot be offered for free as a “prize” or similar. Generally speaking, licensees should be mindful of promotions or advertising that involve any reference to “free” and should confirm that they are permitted before moving forward with the program.