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Group working to determine if Virginia should continue to allow to-go alcohol drinks at restaurants

Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 11:34 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2021 at 11:52 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The future of to-go alcohol sales in Virginia will soon be in the hands of state lawmakers. During the pandemic, the Commonwealth allowed businesses to sell alcoholic beverages to help revive the struggling restaurant industry, but that practice could have an expiration date. As of now, to-go mixed beverages are set to expire in July 2022, but right now, a group is working to determine whether Virginia should allow them for the long haul.

What a difference re-opening makes.

“We’ve been super busy. People are coming back,” said Allen Valencia of Legend Brewing Company. Now, staff can do what they do best. “They also have been waiting for the guests to come back. It’s kinda like playing sports in front of no fans.”

When things were slow because of the pandemic, to-go alcohol sales were a business-saver.

“During phases one and two, it was a big tick and a big up boom for us. That probably kept us going for the first couple of months,” Valencia said.

That was the case for many restaurants everywhere.

“Luckily here we have crowler machines. We were able to can them and top them, so they were legally sent out of the door.”

The state is allowing this to happen through July of next year and right now a group is taking a look at whether this should just be the norm.

“We have more than 40 stakeholders who are participating in this study group and they’re made up of licensees such as restaurateurs, trade associations, alcohol prevention organizations and third party delivery companies,” said Dawn Eischen with Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control

By November, the group will give lawmakers a recommendation on whether to keep those to-go drinks pouring and if so, how to do it safely. “We don’t want it to turn into something where people are consuming beverages while driving of course,” Eischen said.

“As long as people are doing it responsibly, when I say ‘people’, I mean people who are dispensing the alcohol, responsibly to correct age groups and that kind of stuff, then I’m all for it…Anything you can do to help restaurants survive, we should do,” Valencia said.

Some health care advocates are concerned it could also lead to alcohol abuse. That’s why that group is weighing the pros and cons with multiple people coming to the table. After that, it will be in the hands of state lawmakers.

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