The forced closure in indoor dining at restaurants due to Covid-19, and the subsequent takeout business and expansion of outdoor dining opportunities that restaurants quickly implemented showed that there is a lot of opportunity to help restaurants grow and flourish that we haven’t been taking advantage of here in Virginia.
Virginia is bubbling with unique and charming districts that are full of local attractions and delicious dining. To expand dining options, this year I have filed legislation that allows to-go beverages to be consumed in clearly marked outdoor spaces. Thus creating a common space to be shared by many restaurants allowing for the greater mobility of customers. The legislation updates current ABC licensing requirements for local special event licenses which will allow more flexibility for both owners and customers. It also ensures that the updated rules are clear on where the designated area will be.
By updating the licenses, we can expand the attraction to places like West Broad Village, Willow Lawn, or Scott’s Addition. These areas have had immeasurable success and growth in the last few years, and this allows for the additional opportunity for local business to prosper. Imagine the convenience and tourism draw of being able to walk the Scott’s Addition Beer Trail with a local, craft beer in hand!
Additionally, we can see how with the forced adaptations to COVID-19 policies, restaurants have benefitted from the sale of to-go beverages. In fact, SB1299 attempts to codify restaurants’ ability to sell mixed beverages to-go. There is no question that outdoor refreshment areas could create an added benefit to local restaurants and food trucks alike. My legislation would allow customers to enjoy walking around and visiting different trucks, bringing their purchased beverage with them.
We need to capitalize on this opportunity in our Commonwealth to expand on our options for outdoor dining and drinking, especially in the age of COVID-19 where patrons may be more comfortable in an outdoor setting. We can do this in a safe, manageable way that helps restaurants, which are really struggling right now. But, don’t forget to plan your designated driver!