Richmond Times Dispatch, Colleen Curran - 4/5/22
To-go cocktails and alcohol delivery have been extended for another two years in Virginia.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin has signed two bills, House Bill 426 and Senate Bill 254, sponsored by Del. David Bulova, D-Fairfax, and Sen. John Bell, D-Loudoun, extending the alcohol delivery and to-go cocktail policies put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Delivery and curbside pickup sales were both critical sources of income during most of 2020 and early 2021,” Tom Sullivan, co-owner of Ardent Craft Ales, 3200 W. Leigh St. in Scott’s Addition, said.
The emergency legislation, signed by then-Gov. Ralph Northam during COVID-19, created a lifeline for Ardent and many other restaurants to stay afloat when their doors were shuttered and business plummeted during the early months of the pandemic.
The legislation was set to expire July 1, but the new legislation will extend until July 1, 2024.
“Virginia’s bars and restaurants can rest a bit easier knowing cocktails to-go are here to stay for another two years,” David Wojnar, senior vice president and head of state public policy for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said in a statement.
“This revenue-generating measure has provided much-needed support for local hospitality businesses and increased convenience for Virginia’s consumers.”
Mike Lindsey offers to-go cocktails and beer at his downtown Richmond restaurants Lillie Pearl, 416 E. Grace St., and Pop’s Market, 415 E. Grace St.
“It gives restaurants some great flexibility in creating sales and as an added guest experience,” Lindsey said. “The demand has gone down a bit since so many people are dining in, but it still creates a great experience for to-go dining.” He also said that offering to-go drinks during the pandemic was an enormous economic help for his business.
The new legislation includes several requirements to ensure safety for to-go cocktails. For example, alcoholic beverages must:
Bulova, who sponsored House Bill 426, said that he was a bit skeptical of continuing to-go cocktails, but discovered that “a lot of my constituents really enjoyed being able to get cocktails-to-go and quite frankly, it continued to help our restaurants.”
“The hospitality industry has suffered greatly since the start of the pandemic, and we want to ensure that the restaurants we love will still be here for years to come,” Bell added.
A stakeholder group came up with the recommendations for how to continue to-go alcoholic beverages in a safe manner for another two years.
“Demand has definitely waned [for delivery] since the peak before vaccines were available,” Ardent’s Sullivan said. “We still offer delivery one day a week and have a group of loyal customers who still love the service.”
During the pandemic, more than 35 states began allowing restaurants and bars to sell cocktails to-go as an economic relief measure.
Since then, 18 states — including West Virginia and Florida, and the District of Columbia — enacted laws to permanently allow cocktails to-go, while 12 others such as California, Colorado and Virginia enacted laws that allow cocktails to-go on a temporary basis.