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Virginia ABC > Licenses > Retail Resources > Delivery Laws and Regulations

Alcoholic Beverage Delivery Laws and Regulations

Employees preparing food delivery

Guidelines for Licensees

Are you a licensee who employs delivery drivers? See our delivery driver guidelines.

What containers are approved for cocktails to go?

  • All cocktails and mixed beverages must be served in a container provided by the licensee.
  • All contents of the cocktail or mixed beverages must be 16 ounces or less. This includes ice, but there is no requirement for a cocktail or drink to be served with ice.
  • If a container has a lid with a straw hole or sipping hole, the lid may be used if all hole(s) are completely covered and rendered inoperable. A licensee may place a sticker or tape over the holes making it a solid lid. A lid that is difficult to secure may also be secured with tape. A second option would be to wrap the entire lid and cup in a plastic wrap that creates a solid top and secure lid.

Who is liable if alcohol is delivered to underage or intoxicated customer?
The individual who makes an illegal sale is criminally responsible and therefore may be arrested. A conviction of the offense may result in a fine, jail time or both. The business is administratively responsible and may be issued an administrative violation report that could result in the suspension or revocation of the ABC license, as well as a monetary penalty.

What are the consequences of delivery to underage or intoxicated person?
The individual who makes an illegal sale is criminally responsible and therefore may be arrested. A conviction of the offense may result in a fine, jail time or both. The business is administratively responsible and may be issued an administrative violation report that could result in the suspension or revocation of the ABC license, as well as a monetary penalty.

What are the Delivery Driver requirements?
The delivery driver must have a valid driver’s license and be at least 21 years old to deliver mixed drinks or cocktails.

Does happy hour pricing apply to delivery orders (no discounting after 9 p.m.)?
Yes, happy hour pricing applies to delivery orders. No discounts are permitted after 9 p.m.

Can a restaurant offer and advertise different pricing for mixed beverages “to go?”
A mixed beverage licensee may have a price for “to go” cocktails that is different than the regular menu price during this temporary privilege if the discount is not below cost and there is no advertising that entices illegal actions like intoxication or underage consumption. All other advertising regulations apply. The “to go” cocktail price would have to be always the same, or the discounted price would have to end at 9 p.m.

Can I sell a pitcher of margaritas if it contains a maximum of four drinks?
No. For each meal ordered, the restaurant may sell two cocktails in individual 16-ounce containers. A maximum of four 16-ounce cocktails may be purchased assuming two meals were ordered. Sales of “to go” pitchers, no matter what the size, are not permitted.

What is meant by “maximum combined volume not to exceed 16 ounces” in your guidance document?
All contents of the cocktail or mixed drink must be 16 ounces or less. This includes ice, but there is no requirement for a cocktail or drink to be served with ice. The customer could add ice after delivery.

Can a customer bring to the restaurant their own container such as a mini growler or water bottle that has a screw top and no sip top?
No, all cocktails and mixed drinks must be served in a container provided by the licensee.

I only have to go cup lids with holes. Can I use them?
If a container has a lid with a straw hole or sipping hole, the lid may be used if all hole(s) are completely covered and rendered inoperable. A licensee may place a sticker or tape over the holes making it a solid lid. A lid that is difficult to secure may also be secured with tape. A second option would be to wrap the entire lid and cup in a plastic wrap that creates a solid top and secure lid.

What age is required for the delivery driver of mixed drinks or cocktails?
The delivery driver must be at least 21 years old.

Can a restaurant sell a sealed, ready-to-drink canned cocktail that does not qualify as a low alcohol beverage cooler (meaning, a drink containing spirits between .5% and 7.5% alcohol by volume)?
No. Restaurants cannot sell mixed beverages to go, for carry out or delivery in their original container.

Can a restaurant sell 50ml bottles (minis) of spirits to go, for carry out or delivery?
No.

Can we sell a shot of just spirits or a pour of just spirits on the rocks?
No. All cocktails or mixed beverages must contain one mixer and must be served with the ingredients (spirits and mixer) combined.

Can I break up takeout and delivery orders into separate orders to increase the amount of cocktails or mixed drinks that can be sold to individuals?
No. The maximum four cocktails for restaurants and two mixed drinks for distilleries per order applies to per vehicle pick-up and/or per delivery address.

For Delivery Drivers

What are the requirements to be a delivery driver?

The delivery driver must be at least 21 years old to deliver mixed beverages or cocktails.

How can a delivery driver transport alcohol in their vehicle to remain in compliance with the open container law?
Must be transported in the trunk of the vehicle, or if there is no trunk, in an area of the vehicle that is not accessible by the driver while driving.

How does a delivery driver deliver a partial order (food only) and what should be done with alcohol if undeliverable?
Undeliverable alcohol should be returned to the restaurant/seller/licensee.

Who is liable if alcohol is delivered to underage or intoxicated customer?
The individual who makes an illegal sale is criminally responsible and therefore may be arrested. A conviction of the offense may result in a fine, jail time or both.

How can a delivery driver identify if a customer is underage?
Carefully examine the ID and compare the person to the picture and information on the ID.

How can a delivery driver identify if a customer is intoxicated?
Warning signs when identifying intoxicated persons:

  • Slurred speech.
  • Inability to answer simple question or keep a train of thought.
  • Clumsy actions.
  • Difficulty in fine motor skills.
  • Red, bloodshot or watery eyes.
  • Being overly loud or friendly or overly quiet and subdued.
  • Delayed reaction time.

If someone exhibits one or more of these signs, consider not delivering the alcohol portion of their order.

What are the consequences of delivery to underage or intoxicated person?
The individual who makes an illegal sale is criminally responsible, and therefore, may be arrested. A conviction of the offense may result in a fine, jail time or both. The business is administratively responsible and may be issued an administrative written violation report that could result in the suspension or revocation of the ABC license, as well as a monetary penalty.

How do I properly check ID?
F-L-A-G is a simple way to remember how to properly check ID:
F—Feel

  • Have the customer remove the ID from their wallet or plastic holder. You may see another ID in their wallet.
  • Feel for raised edges, glue lines or bumpy surfaces by the photo or birth date. Uneven surfaces often indicate tampering. Feel for cut-out or pasted information.
  • Check the thickness of the ID. Check to see if it was re-laminated after changing some of the information.
L—Look
  • Photograph: Does it look like the person in front of you? Hairstyles and makeup can change, so focus your attention on the person's eyes, nose and chin. When checking men with beards or mustaches, cover the facial hair portion of the photo and concentrate on the eyes, nose or ears.
  • Height and weight: Do they reasonably match the person?
  • State seal: Is it on the ID and is it in the correct place?
  • Date of birth: Is the person old enough? Figure the math or look at the "Under 21 Until" portion of the ID.
  • Age on ID vs. appearance: Does the person in front of you match the age on the ID?
  • Expiration date: Is the ID expired? Expired IDs are unacceptable.
  • Lamination: Are the cuts or corners/edges straight or crooked?
A—Ask
  • Ask for their middle name, zodiac sign or year of high school graduation. If someone must think about his or her sign or when they graduated, the ID may be false.
  • Ask the birth month. If the person responds with a number rather than the name of the month, they may be lying.
  • If the customer is with a companion, ask the companion to quickly tell you the customer's name. Any hesitation may indicate deception.
  • Ask the customer to sign his/her name and then compare the signatures to the ID. Sometimes if the ID is false, the customer will sign his or her true name, rather than the one on the ID.
G—Give Back
  • Give the ID back to the customer and make the sale if the ID is valid.
  • If the ID is fake or altered, you must return the ID.

What does a fake ID look like, and what should you do if you are presented with one?
Fake identification can take various forms, including:

  • False ID: manufactured or computer generated
  • Altered ID: valid identification that is altered to change critical information
  • Borrowed ID: valid identification used by another person
  • Deny the sale when presented a fake ID and return the ID to the presenter.

How do I check an ID when a customer is wearing a mask?
When checking identification for an individual wearing a mask, please follow these steps:

  • Check the ID for authenticity and date of birth as you normally would.
  • Compare physical features of the individual, such as hairline, shape and position of ears and eyes.
  • Ask the individual to step back and lower their mask to ensure proper identification.
How does a delivery driver deny delivery to underage or intoxicated?
  • Remain calm – Tell the customer about the laws and don’t judge the person.
  • Be friendly – Think of the customer as a member of your family. A long-lost cousin, perhaps, but a family member. How would you treat a family member?
  • Identify the rule broken – For example, there is a problem with the customer’s ID, or the customer is intoxicated.
  • Act – In as friendly a tone as possible, let the customer know that you must refuse the sale and why. For example, you could say “Sir, I’m sorry, but I can’t sell this beer to you. ABC laws say that I can’t sell to someone who may be intoxicated. I could lose my job or get arrested.”
What do I do if the customer becomes confrontational if I have to deny alcohol delivery?
  • Remain calm – Tell the customer about the laws and don’t judge the person.
  • Be friendly – Think of the customer as a member of your family. A long- lost cousin, perhaps, but a family member. How would you treat a family member?
  • Identify the rule broken – For example, there is a problem with the customer’s ID, or the customer is intoxicated.
  • Act – In as friendly a tone as possible, let the customer know that you must refuse the sale and why. For example, you could say “Sir, I’m sorry, but I can’t sell this beer to you.
  • ABC laws say that I can’t sell to someone who may be intoxicated. I could lose my job or get arrested.”
  • Call local law enforcement – If a customer becomes belligerent, try one of your own reliable methods to calm them down. If that fails, call the manager. If the police are called, be prepared to give them as many details about the incident as possible.

Updated June 2021

 
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Special agents are the primary resource for questions related to operating a business with an ABC license. Contact a special agent via your regional ABC office.