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Licensee FAQs & Forms

Frequently Asked Questions

For questions and comments regarding licensing, selling and serving of alcoholic beverages, and the ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement, please refer to ABC's Regional Offices page for contact information or e-mail

Question Answer
How old does a person have to be to purchase alcoholic beverages? 21
When does a person reach their 21st birthday? The Attorney General's Office has opined that a person attains his/her next year of age on the day prior to his/her birthday.
Are you required to have an ID to purchase alcoholic beverages? No; however, alcoholic beverages may not be sold to persons under 21. Identification may be required.
How old does a person have to be to purchase non-alcoholic beer? No age requirement.
How do you obtain an ABC license in Virginia? By submitting an application on forms provided by the ABC Department. You may contact any of the ABC Regional and Satellite Offices.

There are two (2) types of applications:

  1. Retail (Permanent license for businesses)
  2. Banquet (One (1) day temporary license)
How long does it take to get a retail license? A banquet license? Retail license applicants should apply at least sixty (60) days prior to scheduled opening date. Banquet license applicants should apply at least seven (7) days prior to the date of the event.
When is it appropriate to get a one day banquet license? Whenever alcoholic beverages are being sold, dispensed in a public place, where food is sold for compensation, on the premises of a club, and to purchase alcoholic beverages from a wholesaler.
How much alcohol can be legally transported into Virginia? One (1) gallon or four liters, if in metric size containers, per person of legal age.
What is required to bring alcoholic beverages in Virginia which is being held by the U.S. customs? The following must be accomplished in order for a Virginia resident to have wine or beer released from U.S. Customs:
  1. The product can only be released to a licensed Virginia wine or beer wholesaler.
  2. After taking possession of the alcohol, the wholesaler must then deliver it to a licensed Virginia retail establishment which holds the necessary off-premise license.
  3. The consumer may then take possession of the alcohol from the retailer. Keep in mind that the appropriate wine tax or malt beverage tax, as well as any additional service charges which may be assessed by the wholesaler and/or retailer, must be paid by the consumer at this time. It is suggested that your local ABC Office be contacted if there are any questions regarding the above.

In order for an individual to have distilled spirits released from U.S. Customs which have been shipped from outside the United States, the following must be done:

  1. The individual wishing to take possession of these distilled spirits must contact the ABC Board Secretary's Office at (804) 213-4439 with an inventory of these products which should include the following information: brand names, various container sizes and the number of containers, and the different types of distilled spirits involved.
  2. The Secretary's Office will determine the appropriate tax and mark-up and notify the individual of the total amount due as well as where and how payment can be made.
  3. Once payment has been made, a permit will be issued which authorizes U.S. Customs to release the distilled spirits.
How old do you have to be to sell alcohol at an ABC off-premises licensed establishment? For immediate family members there is no age requirement. For example, it would be permissible for the owner's child who is 11 years old to run the cash register.

For non-family members - any person that is of the legal working age in Virginia may work selling alcohol in an ABC off-premises licensed establishment.

In both examples above, a designated ABC Manager who is 21 years of age or older must be on the licensed premises.

Is “Sellers and Servers” (bartender) training mandatory in Virginia? No, but highly recommended. View training opportunities at
Can you return alcoholic beverages to the place of purchase for a refund? There is no ABC prohibition, but check with the individual store for their policy on refunds.
When a patron orders a bottle of wine and does not consume the entire contents, can he/she take it home? Yes, must be in the original container and sealed.
How old does a waiter or waitress have to be? Waiter or waitress - 18 years of age, Bartender - 21 years of age.
What hours can happy hours be conducted? 6:00 AM until 9:00 PM
How many drinks can a patron purchase at one time? No more than two drinks of wine, beer or mixed beverages during Happy Hour. During all other times, no more than two mixed drinks at one time, wine and beer - no restriction.
Are pitchers of mixed beverages authorized in Virginia? No
Can a bartender buy a drink for a customer while on duty? No
Can a bartender give away a free drink to a customer while on duty? No
Can an owner buy or give away a drink to a customer while on duty? Yes, but only pursuant to the limitations in 3 VAC 5 70 100 (see Virginia Adminstrative Code in the "Virginia Codes" section of Laws & Enforcement)
Can a licensee sell or give away samples (tastes) of their offered alcoholic beverages (less than the normal amount) so that patrons may taste the product before purchasing a full serving? An on- premise licensee can give a sample of their products. Samples of wine shall not exceed two ounces, samples of beer shall not exceed four ounces, and samples of spirits shall not exceed one-half ounce. No more than two product samples shall be givien to any person per visit.
Can a restaurant conduct a private function and allow participants to bring in their own alcoholic beverages? Yes, only in a private room that is separate from the public. If the establishment has only one room then the entire restaurant must be closed to the general public.
Can a licensee conduct functions outside in their parking lot? Yes, only upon prior approval from the ABC Board, not to exceed four (4) days in any one calendar year. These days may be consecutive.
Can a licensee transfer alcoholic beverages from one establishment to another? No
Can a convicted felon be employed in a licensed establishment? Yes, there have been recent changes in several criminal codes that will allow some convicted felons to be employed by a licensee. View the updated ABC regulation.
Are ABC licenses transferable? No
What newspapers are acceptable to publish in for ABC licenses? In any newspaper published in or having a general circulation in the County, City or Town wherein such applicant proposes to engage in such business.
What do you check for when checking wine, beer and mixed beverage invoices while conducting an inspection? To verify that Wine and Beer were purchased from licensed Virginia wholesalers and distilled spirits were purchased from the Virginia Department of ABC.
The mixed beverage ratio is 45% - 55%. What is the ratio for wine and beer? There is no ratio for wine and beer.
If an ABC license is suspended, may a licensee serve non-alcoholic beer? Yes
Can an officer of a corporation, living abroad, obtain an ABC license? Yes
What are the rules regarding non-alcoholic beer? Non-Alcoholic Beer is less than ½ of one percent alcohol, therefore, it is not controlled by the ABC Board. Exceptions would be those things a wholesaler can provide to a retailer regarding non-alcoholic beverages.
How should a seller deal a second party sale? If a seller observes specific activity of a second party, such as passing of money, participation in selection, or bringing the alcoholic beverage to the checkout stand, identification should be requested of the second party. The sale may be legally refused.
What will the agent do if I cut a person off and they are sitting at my bar waiting for a ride or etc.? You may not serve alcoholic beverages to a patron to the point he becomes intoxicated. However, if the patron has been cut off prior to becoming intoxicated and attempts are made to secure him a ride, there would not be a violation.
At closing will agents write me up if I still have glasses on the table? No. It is not a violation to have glasses on the table at or after closing. The violation is to allow consumption of alcoholic beverages between the hours of 2 am and 6 am.
What are the rules for a club? Basically the rules for clubs are the same as for retail operations with the exception of hours of sale and brown bagging. Clubs are limited to members and their invited guests except for specific and limited times they may operate open to the public.
What are the rules for caterer's Same rules apply to caterer's as to retail operations.
Can the licensee keep a falsified ID? What should the licensee do with the ID? Virginia Law does not allow anyone other than sworn police to seize falsified ID's. Licensee's retaining such ID's should turn them over to the local police or to their local ABC agent.
Can the band members drink while playing at the establishment? "Yes" if it is a wine and beer licensed establishment. "No" if it is a mixed beverage licensed establishment.
Can band members drink after they finish? If a mixed beverage licensed establishment, they may drink during a dinner break and after they have finished playing for the evening provided it is not past 2 am.
When can employees drink alcohol? 4.1-325/ 4.1-325.2. No retail wine or beer and mixed beverage licensee or his agent or employee shall consume any alcoholic beverages while on duty and in a position that is involved in the selling or serving of alcoholic beverages to customers
Can the owner sell an employee wine or beer for a personal party? Yes
When a licensee rents a hotel room can he/she drink in the lobby or halls? Alcoholic beverages may only be consumed in areas approved by the ABC Board for consumption.
If a patron is cut off in the restaurant can he be served in his room? No. Alcoholic Beverages may not be sold to an intoxicated person.
What type of clothes can be worn in the restaurant by employees? Basically, any type clothing may be worn provided it has not been provided by a wholesaler. However, on the premises of a mixed beverage licensee clothing which stresses nudity or near nudity is prohibited.

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