Starting Monday, July 1, the commonwealth will enact 12 laws that impact the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC), its licensees and applicants for ABC licenses. The Virginia General Assembly passed the following Virginia ABC-related legislative proposals during the 2019 session, and Governor Ralph Northam signed them into law.
Happy Hour (HB 2073 and SB 1726)
This law allows retail on-premise ABC licensees to advertise both the alcoholic beverages featured during a happy hour and the beverage prices. Creative marketing techniques are permitted in advertisements as long as it does not promote over-consumption or underage drinking.
Distiller Commission and Sunday ABC Store Hours (HB 1770 and SB 1668)
This law provides a 20% commission on the retail price of spirits sold by licensed distillers operating a distillery store according to an agreement with Virginia ABC. In addition, the law permits certain ABC stores to open at 10 a.m. on Sundays, which is two hours earlier than the previously authorized opening time.
Mixed Beverage Referendum (HB 2634 and SB 1110)
Effective July 2020, this law permits Virginia ABC to sell alcoholic beverages and restaurants to sell mixed beverages in all counties, cities, towns and supervisors’ districts, unless qualified voters in those jurisdictions petition the circuit court to prohibit ABC and restaurants from selling those beverages in their jurisdiction. Once prohibited, the voters can take action to rescind these prohibitions. This law includes several enactment clauses: jurisdiction prohibition decisions determined by July 2019 become effective July 2020, previous referenda taken prior to July 1, 2019 will be effective for five years after the date of the referenda, and previous establishments exempt from local mixed beverage referenda will continue licensure.
Other legislation important to Virginia ABC and its stakeholders:
Sale of Nicotine Products to Persons Under 21 Prohibited (SB 1727)
This law changes the age requirement for the purchase of tobacco, nicotine vapor and alternative nicotine products from 18 to 21 years old. Active duty military aged 18 or older are permitted to purchase nicotine products with a valid military ID.
Human Trafficking (HB 1887)
This law requires Virginia ABC to post a Virginia Department of Labor and Industry approved sign in every store in English and Spanish about the existence of a human trafficking hotline for use by witnesses or victims of human trafficking to report crimes or gain assistance.
Low Alcohol Beverages (HB 1960)
This law allows licensed distillers within the commonwealth or distillers located outside of the commonwealth to produce low alcohol beverage coolers, which typically consist of spirits mixed with non-alcoholic beverages such as flavorings, fruit juices or water. Low alcohol beverage coolers contain 0.5% or more of alcohol by volume, but no more than 7.5% alcohol by volume. ABC may also sell these beverages.
Record Retention Policies for Delivery Permittees (HB 2367)
This law imposes new record retention policies for delivery permittees and allows them to use independent contractors for the completion of deliveries. In addition, the law permits Virginia ABC to suspend the purchase privilege of a mixed beverage licensee for failure to submit records and documents needed to verify its compliance with applicable minimum food sale requirements within 30 days of their due date.
Distillery Store Monthly Revenue Transfers and Case Fees (SB 1709)
Distillery store operators currently have the option to limit their monthly revenue transfers to solely applicable taxes and markups. Notwithstanding the July 2020 effective date in the legislation, distillers may choose this new program immediately. This law also prohibits Virginia ABC from imposing any case fee on products moved on the distiller’s premises by its own employees.
Additional Measures Impacting Alcohol Licenses
HB 1657: This law creates a new mixed beverage performing arts facility license allowing the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages at a multipurpose theater in the Town of Bridgewater’s historic district. The facility must be owned by a governmental entity and have a total capacity in excess of 100 patrons.
HB 1905: This law provides four more exceptions to a list of properties in § 4.1-126 for which a required local referendum on mixed beverages does not apply.
SB 1171: This law creates a local special events license that allows a locality, business improvement district or nonprofit organization to permit consumption of alcoholic beverages within an area designated by Virginia ABC for a special event. The alcoholic beverages must be purchased from a permanent, on-premise licensee located in the designated area and beverages must be served in disposable containers clearly marked with the licensee’s name or logo. Local special events may only be held 12 times per year. With approval, alcoholic beverages may be taken into other businesses.
SB 1420: This law creates two new licenses:
ABC Laws Effective July 1