Just before happy hour on Friday afternoon, Gov. Terry McAuliffe raised a pint and signed a bill to loosen regulations on Virginia’s booze industry.
Virginia breweries and wineries now can obtain up to eight ABC-sanctioned banquet licenses in a calendar year, up from four.
The bill was signed in the taproom at Steam Bell Beer Works at 1717 Oak Lake Blvd. in Midlothian. Co-owner Brittany Cooper said the new rules will benefit her company, as they were held back by having only four banquet licenses in the past.
“Most breweries use one for an anniversary, then another on a New Year’s party,” Cooper said. “Now we’ll be able to host more, bigger events.”
Per Virginia ABC regulations, banquet licenses are needed for events that are private, serving free alcohol not purchased through a distributor, or held on non-licensed premises.
The bill, HB 2418, was patroned by Del. Roxann Robinson (R-Chesterfield) and passed in this year’s General Assembly. The Virginia Craft Brewers Guild helped push for the legislation.
McAuliffe said Friday that more events at breweries and wineries mean more tourism for Virginia.
“We had 42 million visitors last year. We’ve shattered all the records. We had $26 billion dollars of tourism income, and the craft beer business is a huge part of that,” he said.
Cooper echoed the Governor’s sentiment.
“It’s better for tourism, especially out here in Chesterfield,” Cooper said. “We’re the only ones out here, so we don’t have these other breweries to draw people to town. Now we can have events that will.”
Friday’s bill-signing wasn’t the only Steam Bell event that drew a crowd this month.
The Coopers announced they’ll open a satellite taproom at 1527-29 W. Main St. in the Fan, Canon & Draw Brewing Co., which is set to open in late spring or early fall.
And breweries and wineries weren’t the only ones to get some legislative love in the last General Assembly session. The governor signed two bills that gave distillers more freedom in sales.
The Virginia Distillers Association lobbied for bills that would allow them to sell directly to consumers at festivals, as well as directly to restaurants.