Virginia's Legislature Contemplates Reforming Distilling Laws (Again)


Every year, the Virginia state legislature considers a bevy of bills to reform the state's woefully out of date and restrictive laws governing distilleries. While wineries and breweries are relatively uninhibited in the Commonwealth, distilleries face limitations on everything from how many ounces of tastings they can provide to on-site visitors to how much of their revenue they must send to the state ABC system. Distillery owners have pushed to ease these restrictions but have had little success given the entrenched interests in the state legislature. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the legislature is once again considering reforms, but only one bill seems to have much chance of success:

"As they’ve watched Virginia’s brewery and wine industries boom, craft distillers have begun to feel the state is unfairly harsh on businesses that make the stronger stuff.

In a General Assembly committee room Tuesday, the spirits industry, with the help of both Republican and Democratic backers, tried to methodically chip away at state regulations, asking a House of Delegates subcommittee to pass legislation letting distillers serve more alcohol to customers, open earlier on Sundays and build remote tasting rooms to expand their clientele.

But the biggest change in state law sought by the Virginia Distillers Association involves money, and distillery owners’ contention that they’re in a state of financial servitude to the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control...

Though several other pro-distiller proposals died in the subcommittee, a bill to let distilleries keep the profits on their own bottle sales passed on an 8-0 vote, prompting the bill’s sponsor, Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, to jokingly thank the panel for supporting his “booze equality bill.”

But because the policy change could cost the state millions in revenue, it also will need a green light from the House Appropriations Committee before it can get to the floor for a full vote..."

Read the rest here.

R Street's Jarrett Dieterle has written extensively about Virginia alcohol laws (see here and here).  He also tweeted reactions to this latest news on Twitter: