Open-container area bills pass the General Assembly

March 4, 2021

After a tedious journey through the General Assembly, legislation authorizing local governments to create outdoor refreshment areas – in other words, open-container areas – in their localities has passed the House and Senate and will now be sent to Governor Ralph Northam for action.

After the House and Senate struggled to find consensus on the issue, HB 2266 (Ayala) and SB 1472 (Dunnavant) were sent to conference for further analysis and work.  In the end, an agreement was reached to allow local governments to seek state approval for these outdoor refreshment areas, rather than simply grant them the power to establish up to three outdoor refreshment areas, as the bills initially proposed.

Effectively, the final legislation renames the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority’s (ABC’s) “Local Special Events” license to the “Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area” license.  Current law allows for these licenses, but localities are limited to holding 16 events per year under such license, with no event lasting more than three days (notwithstanding the current COVID-19 related loosening of restrictions).  This legislation permits the ABC board to increase the frequency and duration of events held under this license if a locality adopts an ordinance requesting such an increase.  Per the legislation, such an ordinance must include the size and scope of the area within which such events will be held, a public safety plan, and any other considerations that the ABC Board may deem necessary.

In its final form, this outdoor refreshment area legislation passed the House 92-3 and the Senate 39-0.  The bills will now be sent to the Governor for analysis and eventual signing.

VACo Contact: Chris McDonald, Esq.

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