Insurance costs a barrier for fair booze vendor

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WALLA WALLA — Liquor sales at the Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days are going to be rebid after the company that was going to take on the job found the insurance requirements too hard to swallow.

In a memo to county commissioners, fair board member Sam Waldron said the company, Oregon Beverage Services of Salem, declined the contract, saying the insurance requirements were well above the industry standard. They requested commissioners review the figures and bring them “to a more reasonable level.”

In the original request for proposals, the fair board set insurance requirements for liquor liability at $4 million minimum for each occurrence with an $8 million annual aggregate. It also required a minimum of $2 million in general commercial liability insurance with a $4 million annual aggregate.

Waldron and Cory Hewitt, fairgrounds general manager, said a survey of other Washington state fairs of equal size found most require between $1 million and $2 million in liability insurance for beverage service. However, they said, if the commissioners decided to make any changes to the original request for proposals, it would have to be rebid.

Meeting in special session Wednesday, commissioners Jim Johnson, Greg Tompkins and Perry Dozier reviewed the situation with Hewitt, Waldron, other fair board members, county Personnel and Risk Manager Lucy Schwallie and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jesse Nolte, who is the commissioners’ legal counsel.

After discussion in both open and closed session, commissioners voted to lower the insurance requirements for liquor liability to $3 million for each occurrence with a $4 million annual aggregate and re-advertise the request for proposals. The motion, which passed unanimously, specified there would be no change in the requirements for general commercial liability insurance.

Hewitt said after the meeting the request for proposals will be put back out today and Oregon Beverage Services will be allowed to resubmit a bid.

The company was one of four organizations which responded to the first request for proposals the Fair & Frontier Days board sent out in May. A local organization, the Walla Walla Wagon Wheelers, which had handled beer and malt beverage sales at the fair for many years, opted out due to not having enough personnel and the need to meet other requirements for selling hard liquor.

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