Virginia House rejects Senate substitute to bill giving localities option for ‘outdoor refreshment areas’

Virginia

FILE — Bartender Kellie Mottiqua prepares drinks at Bridgetown Taphouse in Ambridge, Penn. Earlier in the day Gov. Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine announced a series of orders and advisories, including a stay-at-home advisory, and an order suspending all alcohol sales in bars, restaurants or catered events during the night before Thanksgiving. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — While legislation giving localities the option to set up three outdoor refreshment areas where people can drink alcohol they buy within the area has advanced in the Virginia General Assembly, the House voted Thursday to unanimously reject a Senate substitute that was approved unanimously two days earlier.

House Bill 2266, introduced by Del. Hala S. Ayala (D-Prince William), would allow the board of directors of the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Authority to increase the number of events a city, county, business improvement district or nonprofit can hold in a year.

The measure, which calls on localities to develop public safety plans and approve an ordinance, would also permit the board to change the duration limit for events. Current law limits localities to 16 events per year that can’t last longer than three straight days.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 39-0 to approve the measure with a substitute. Del. Ayala urged her colleagues to vote down the amendment on Thursday.

“I would ask the body to reject this Senate substitute,” she said when the bill came up during Thursday’s House floor session. “The House companion to this bill remains the current licensure to more accurately describe its new role as a “outdoor refreshments area” license. The Senate version does not update this.”

Del. Ayala argued the difference could confuse things for those applying. In the end, all 100 members of the House followed Ayala’s suggestion and voted against the substitute.

The bill also incorporates House Bill 2051, which allows localities that approve an ordinance to designate up to three “outdoor refreshment areas” for people to buy and drink alcohol outdoors. The legislative effort to loosen certain restrictions and provide outdoor options for residents during the coronavirus pandemic comes after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) approved options for liquor delivery and to-go mixed drinks.

Under the legislation, drinks must be bought from a “permanent retail on-premises licensee” within the area and be inside a disposable container, no more than 16 fluid ounces, with the company’s name or logo on it.

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