Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that he told Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority that mixed drinks can be sold by restaurants via takeout and delivery. The policy will be effective Thursday and ABC said details would be coming soon.

Virginia loosened its restrictions in March to allow restaurants to sell wine and beer for carryout and delivery. But the state-owned liquor monopoly had not previously permitted restaurants to sell liquor or cocktails to-go, something other states — including Texas, California, Maryland and New York — have done amid social distancing recommendations.

The mayors of Richmond and Alexandria, as well as several state legislators, wrote letters or reached out to the governor to express their support for mixed beverages to go approval, according to Thomas A. Lisk, a lobbyist for the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association.

Lisk has been pushing for the policy change on behalf of the restaurant industry for weeks.

"The Virginia restaurant community greatly appreciates the Governor’s assistance in allowing restaurants to be able to sell mixed beverages for take/out and delivery," Lisk said. "This additional flexibility will allow more restaurants to stay open, and more people to remain employed, during this challenging time, while also benefiting Virginia consumers who may prefer spirits over other beverages."

Virginia ABC temporarily closes two stores due to coronavirus - the fourth time the state-run liquor monopoly has done so

Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority has closed two of its stores in Northern Virginia after two employees tested positive for COVID-19.

The stores are the Huntington Gateway store in Alexandria and the Merrifield Plaza Shopping Center store in Falls Church. Both stores will be closed for a 14-day quarantine and deep cleaning period before reopening, according to Virginia ABC.

The employee at the Alexandria store last worked April 5 while the Falls Church employee last worked March 29. Both received their positive diagnosis around April 6.

This is the fourth Virginia ABC store to briefly close due to coronavirus. In March, a Richmond store closed for two weeks after an employee's roommate tested positive for the virus and a Virginia Beach store also closed for two weeks in March when an employee there tested positive. Both stores have now reopened.

Virginia ABC stores have been declared essential businesses by Gov. Ralph Northam and continue to operate their 386 other retail stores across the state while encouraging social distancing while shopping. The regulatory authority has loosened some restrictions on alcohol regulations - such as allowing restaurants to sell wine and beer to go and allowing Virginia distillers to ship in-state to consumers - it has not allowed most of its products to be delivered directory to consumers. Nor has it allowed restaurants to sell mixed drinks to go.

“We are sharing regular updates with all of our employees and encouraging them to follow VDH and CDC guidelines for personal health and safety,” said Chief Executive Officer Travis Hill in a statement. “We are constantly monitoring developments related to the coronavirus and adhering to all CDC guidelines, as well as federal, state and local directives. The health and safety of our employees and customers continues to be our top priority."

 

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