Virginia ABC > Licenses > Retail Resources > Inspections

Preparing for Your Inspection

All Virginia ABC licensees are subject to regular inspections by Virginia ABC special agents to verify that an establishment is operating in accord with ABC laws.

Generally inspections are conducted unannounced, during reasonable hours of operation (COV 4.1-204). For most licensees, this means between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. If the licensee is not open to the public substantially during this period, "reasonable hours" shall mean the business hours when the licensee is open to the public. ABC special agents can inspect your business at any time, so it makes sense to have your documents and records in good order at all times.

Special agents make every attempt to minimize disruption to the operation of the licensed business. To conduct the inspection, the agent will identify him/herself and show proper identification and will check, at a minimum, for the following:

  • Is the ABC license posted and current?
  • Is the designated manager list posted and current?
  • Is the ownership information correct?
  • Is the establishment illuminated sufficiently?
  • Have there been physical modifications to the building? If so, was ABC properly notified?
  • Are all required records (including sales/purchases of alcoholic beverages, food, keg books, etc.) complete and accurate?
  • Was all wine and beer purchased from a wholesaler?
  • For a mixed beverage licensee, are bottles of spirits marked with mixed beverage stamps, indicating that spirits were properly purchased?
  • Were mixed beverage stamps properly obliterated on empty spirits bottles?
  • Is all advertising material authorized?
  • Is food available during all hours the business is open?
  • Special agents will also answer questions about ABC laws and regulations.

 Here is the form that agents use to perform their annual or "spot" inspections (PDF).

Helpful Suggestions

  • Be proactive throughout the year in contacting your special agent when questions arise about ABC laws and regulations.
  • Train employees (21 and older) to act as designated ABC managers and keep the list posted and current. Ensure that there is at least one properly trained ABC designated manager available during business hours.


Does the owner need to be present for an inspection to occur?
No. In the absence of an owner, an ABC-designated manager must be present, and in charge, any time the licensed establishment is open for business (regardless of whether the privileges of the license are being exercised). (3 VAC 5-50-40)

Does the owner or designated ABC manager need to stay with the agent while the business and records are being reviewed?
The inspection is an opportunity for the special agent and licensee to learn from each other. While there is no requirement for the owner or manager to stay with the agent, it’s preferable for them to be present to discuss issues or pose questions that arise.

What if the licensee refuses the inspection or access to a locked cabinet or office?
The person in charge will be notified that the refusal is an offense (COV 4.1-331). Continued refusal could warrant issuance of a summons, the securing of an administrative search warrant, and administrative charges filed against the licensee.

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 that distilled spirits were purchased from Virginia ABC.

Why does ABC care about lighting?
It all comes down to public safety. It’s important for law enforcement and your staff to be able to observe whether customers are providing alcohol to underage individuals, whether patrons are intoxicated, whether drug transactions are being conducted, etc. Ultimately, this requirement is intended to protect you, your staff and customers and to allow law enforcement to observe what is happening inside your establishment. (3 VAC 5-50-70)

Once I’ve had an inspection, when will my agent conduct the next one?
There is a minimum inspection requirement, but no maximum. In other words, an agent can inspect a licensed establishment as deemed necessary until in compliance with ABC regulations.

Revised May 15, 2015

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Need Help?

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. For step-by-step assistance in banquet licensing, see our Licensing Wizard.


Virginia ABC offers free online training to help managers, sellers and servers to become more responsible and better understand ABC laws, rules and regulations. For more information, contact Community Health & Prevention, (804) 977-7440 or [email protected].

The information on this page is meant for general guidance only. For specific questions, contact your ABC special agent. To view ABC laws and regulations, visit Virginia’s Legislative Information System.