The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) recently received final approval from the McDonnell administration on its proposed regulations changes, allowing revisions to be published in The Virginia Register of Regulations and become effective 30 days after publication.
The most notable change related to happy hour advertising will become effective January 29, when restaurants will be able to advertise happy hour and the time span of their drink specials in any media (social, print or broadcast). In the past, Virginia restaurants could only advertise happy hour inside the establishment or on a 17-by-22-inch sign attached to the outside of the business. Promotion of specific happy hour drink prices and specials, however, will still be restricted.
Other highlights include revisions associated with growlers and infusions. Beginning January 15, gourmet shops as well as restaurants with on- and off-premises licenses will be able to sell growlers (closed containers) of wine, beer or cider for customers to purchase and “take out.” In the past, only beer could be sold in growlers by restaurants with both on- and off-premises licenses.
Infusion, a process that involves steeping fruit, herbs, vegetables or other ingredients into distilled spirits to create a distinctly flavored drink, will become legal for businesses with ABC mixed-beverage licenses effective February 26. The process has been illegal in Virginia due to an existing regulation that prohibits restaurants from diluting or tampering with the contents of any bottle or container of alcoholic beverage.
ABC embarked on its comprehensive regulatory review in 2011, a task that had not been undertaken in more than 15 years. “The process involved gathering recommendations from the public, alcohol industry representatives, restaurant owners and other key stakeholders, and was focused on public safety and business-friendly decisions,” said ABC Chief Operating Officer Curtis Coleburn.
Coleburn oversaw the project with assistance from ABC Deputy Secretary to the Board Chris Curtis. In total, six of eight chapters of regulations were amended and 35 sections of regulations were changed within those six chapters. Nine regulatory actions were approved by the governor’s office.
The process involved: gathering feedback from stakeholders; drafting regulatory revisions and posting them in The Virginia Register of Regulations (July 2012); holding a 30-day public comment period; considering all comments and drafting proposed regulations for review by the Virginia Attorney General, Department of Planning and Budget, Secretary of Public Safety and the Governor’s policy office; posting a Notice of Intended Regulatory Action (NOIRA) on www.townhall.virginia.gov; holding a second 60-day public comment period; and drafting final regulations and forwarding them to the administration for review. Approval was received in late 2013.
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is a major source of revenue for the commonwealth, contributing more than $1.7 billion to the general fund in the last five years. The agency currently operates 344 state stores. Its Bureau of Law Enforcement oversees more than 16,000 ABC licensed establishments while the Hearings and Appeals Division considers more than 700 cases each year. The agency also provides alcohol education and prevention programs for people of all ages. Now in its 80th year, ABC remains committed to progress and innovation in carrying out its control, service and revenue mission.
Governor’s Office Approves ABC Regulations Changes Restaurants May Soon Advertise “Happy Hour”