Any restaurant in Virginia with a valid license to sell wine and beer on-premises can now sell wine and beer to go and for delivery without applying for additional permits.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced the change at a press conference Friday in response to his Tuesday ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people in Virginia, enacted to help slow the spread of coronavirus. The ban effectively shut down the dine-in business for restaurants across Virginia.
The regulatory change also applies to breweries and wineries and allows restaurants to have their wine and beer delivered through a third-party service, such as UberEats or Grub Hub and and it will remain in effect as long as the state of emergency continues, according to Virginia ABC.
“If someone were to order a meal, they could also have the option of ordering beer or wine for either take-out or delivery,” Northam said. “Virginians want to do the right thing, so that we can get through this situation, together.”
The announcement is a dramatic change from ABC's existing guidelines, which require a non-refundable $195 application fee, an annual $300 license fee, multiple public postings, and a 30-day waiting period for any restaurant with a valid license to sell wine and beer on-premises seeking to sell it to go. The change also streamlines the process to add delivery of wine and beer to existing ABC-Off permit holders.
Nearly every full-service restaurant in Virginia this week has suddenly shifted to a take-out-only model, but the shift has deprived the restaurants of their most lucrative product: booze sales.
"[Liquor sales] represent 30 or so percent of our sales with the highest profit margins of any category," said Michelle Williams of the Richmond Restaurant Group. As of Monday, she'd shifted four of her Richmond area restaurants to take-out and delivery only. Four others have been closed since Monday.
While wine and beer are included in that 30%, the spirits and cocktails are the most profitable - and that's where many in the restaurant industry want to see Virginia ABC further loosen restrictions.