Coworking booze bill clears GA; awaits Northam’s signature

A Gather member in Richmond. (Courtesy Gather)

A push by two local businesses to create two new types of ABC licenses has made its way to the governor’s desk.

A bill that would create ABC licenses for coworking spaces and custom clothiers was voted through last week by the state Senate and House of Delegates, and either will be signed into law or vetoed by Gov. Ralph Northam.

The legislation was prompted by the lobbying efforts of local coworking chain Gather and Alton Lane, a Scott’s Addition-based men’s clothier, and patroned by Sen. Glen Sturtevant (R-Midlothian).

The bill first came about when the Virginia ABC shut down Gather’s happy hours, where it was serving free beer to its members as a perk.

Gather co-owners Polly and Doug White contacted Del. Debra Rodman (D-Henrico) to draft a bill that would create an ABC license for coworking space operators. While Rodman’s bill died in committee, Sturtevant’s identical bill survived in the Senate.

Shortly after, men’s custom clothier Alton Lane lobbied to amend the bill to add a license type for bespoke clothiers.

Alton Lane’s headquarters in Scott’s Addition. (Mike Platania)

Alton Lane had been offering beer, wine and spirits to its customers during their fittings at its shop near Libbie and Grove, but similarly was shut down by the ABC.

After the amendment was added, the bill went back into committee before getting passed last week.

“We’re very excited,” Polly White said. “The governor still has to sign it, but we don’t anticipate there being a problem.”

Doug White said that while the ABC halted their taps last year, the state agency actually spoke in favor of it in committee.

“They were quite supportive of our bill, and said they don’t have any problems with it,” he said.

It’s unclear when Northam will act on the bill. If it’s signed into law, Gather, Alton Lane and other coworking spaces and custom clothiers around the state would be able to apply for ABC licenses July 1.

The Whites said the whole process of pushing for a bill was a lot longer and more complex than they anticipated.

“There’s an awful lot of steps in the process that happen rapidly — bouncing from committee to committee, to the floor, then back to committee, and we had to be there and ready to testify if needed,” Doug said.

“And we started this more than a year ago,” Polly said. “It shows that citizens, at a local level, can get things done.”

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Paul Stoneman

It seems odd that bespoke clothiers and coworking spaces are the only ones that are included in this bill. I wonder what other types of businesses would have benefited by being included.