State bill may add some bark to your boozing

Giselle at Triple Crossing’s downtown porch area. (Mike Platania)

In addition to pints, wine glasses and growlers, Virginia booze makers soon may have to set out dog dishes.

A bill to allow dogs inside breweries, wineries and distilleries in Virginia has passed through the General Assembly and now awaits the governor’s signature.

Patroned by Del. John J. Bell (D-Chantilly), the bill says “a dog may be allowed inside or on the premises of, except in any area used for the manufacture of food products, a distillery… winery… or brewery.”

While some booze makers already allow dogs on their outdoor gathering areas, state law currently allows only guide or guard animals indoors at breweries, wineries and distilleries, provided their presence is “unlikely to result in contamination.”

Bell said he was contacted by Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane, saying they had customers asking about it.

“They were concerned,” he said of Barrel Oak. “Wineries are a pretty fast-growing industry in Virginia and for some reason the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services was prohibiting (dogs inside the premises).”

Bell said there’s no health risk in allowing dogs into taprooms and tasting rooms, as long as manufacturing areas are in a distinctly separate part of the building.

“It’s a practice we’d like to allow, it helps businesses,” he said.

The state has over 180 breweries, 280 wineries and 45 distilleries, according to the Virginia Tourism Corp. The Richmond region is home to about 30 breweries and a handful of distilleries and wineries.

Ryan Mitchell, co-owner of Garden Grove Brewing and Urban Winery in Carytown, said he  supports the legislation.

“Richmond is very community-focused and within our community are pets; they should absolutely be welcome in brewing-, distilling- or winery-focused industries,” Mitchell said.

“This will only help Richmond be more community-focused and welcoming of all, even our four-legged friends.”

Joe Dombroski, who owns of New Kent Winery and serves of the Virginia Wine Association’s legislative committee, said the bill was supported by a newly formed wine caucus in the General Assembly.

Dombroski said while breweries and distilleries have done a great job lobbying for regulations in their respective product types, it made sense for all three industries to work together on this bill.

“What you find out in the alcohol-related world in the legislature is breweries and distilleries, because they’re newer, any time we (wineries) try to do something, they jump on board for the ride,” Dombroski said. “They’re good at it and help get permissions to help their businesses too.”

Delegates Lee Carter (D-Manassas), Karrie Delaney (D-Centreville), Wendy Gooditis (D-Clarke), Mark Keam (D-Vienna), Kathleen Murphy (D-McLean) and Michael Webert (R-Marshall) were co-patrons of the bill.

Bell said the bill went unopposed through the General Assembly in January and February. The Virginia Wine Council lobbied for the bill.

It is now en route to Gov. Ralph Northam’s office where he will either sign it into law or veto it.

Bell said he believes Northam will sign the bill into law. If passed it would still be up to the discretion of individual establishments to allow dogs inside.

Dombroski , for example, said the new bill won’t have too much of an effect on his winery since they’ve always been dog-friendly.

“We do an event in August called the Dog Days of Summer. We had over 300 dogs here last summer,” he said.

Another local delegate would be particularly affected by the bill.

Del. Chris Peace, a Republican who represents New Kent and parts of Hanover and King William counties, owns White Plains Farm & Vineyard, a small winery in Hanover that opened last year. Peace voted in favor of the bill, according to state records.

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Geroge Martin
Geroge Martin

I’m quite not sure about wineries but you can almost call any brewery “tasting room” a restaurant. There are usually one or more food trucks parked at the brewery as well as patrons ordering food online. We are eating inside the breweries. This law will stop me from supporting those food trucks. Watch… restaurants will be next. Disgusting.

Keith Pritchard

Not in the winery production area? What food safety issue does that cause? Wine kills human pathogens and any a dog might leave with a hair would be a nonissue. Now the beards of the brewers could make a bottle of beer go bad if a hair is inadvertently put in a bottle during bottling, but would not constitute any kind of food safety issue as human pathogens are not sustainable in beer either. Having dogs around the tables and real food is more of an issue than in production areas. Goes to show there is no common sense in… Read more »