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:
Here is the form that agents use to perform their annual or "spot" inspections (PDF).
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
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 Education and Prevention, (804) 977-7440 or email@example.com.