Alcohol Sales Virginia: Laws, History, and COVID-19

Learn more about the history of alcohol sales in Virginia, how COVID-19 has impacted it, and what laws and regulations the state has implemented.

Each state has their own laws regarding how alcohol is distributed and sold to consumers. Virginia is one of 17 control states, which means that the state government regulates how distilled spirits are sold. Learn more about the history of alcohol sales in Virginia and what laws and regulations the state has implemented.

Virginia Alcohol Laws

In Virginia, the Bureau of Law Enforcement is tasked with making sure that adults are able to responsibly consume alcohol in a safe environment. The accredited unit also ensures that any retailer or business that serves alcohol is in full compliance with the state’s laws and regulations. This is all part of the larger goal of making sure that alcohol is safely consumed throughout the state and to offer positive social benefits.

To further this goal, the revenue from alcohol sales is put into a general fund. The Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Authority (ABC) is able to earn money through retail sales, taxes on beer and wine sales, license fees and violation fines. Some of this money goes towards alcohol education and prevention, and training for employees who handle alcohol at licensed businesses. ABC store sales also provides grant funding for a variety of programs that work to improve communities and develop new initiatives at Virginia colleges and universities. 

History of Alcohol Control in Virginia

With the end of Prohibition, Virginia allowed retailers to sell beer and wine while retaining control over hard liquor. Today, over 16,000 retailers are licensed to sell beer and wine. Meanwhile, the General Assembly created the Virginia ABC and empowered it with exclusive control over selling liquor directly to consumers.

Customers can visit almost any grocery store or gas station and legally purchase beer and wine. These retailers compete for business by offering products at different price points, providing more convenient hours of operation, and putting an emphasis on customer service. 

How COVID-19 has Affected Alcohol Sales in Virginia

Many states changed some of their laws around alcohol sales in order to better support businesses during the pandemic. Virginia made it legal for licensed merchants to sell to-go cocktails. In late June of 2021, the state government decided to provide an extension that allows the sale of to-go cocktails. During this time, the ABC took a closer look at how the law affected public safety before considering another extension.  

New legislation also allows businesses without a delivery permit to sell beer and wine to consumers for offsite consumption. Additionally, there have been some changes to which products can be sold at ABC stores. Previously, all kinds of alcohol, including low-alcohol drinks, could be sold in liquor stores. However, as of January 1, 2022, consumers will need to go elsewhere to find their favorite low-alcohol, meaning less than or equal to 7.5% alcohol volume, beverages. Only low-alcohol spirit drinks that have been manufactured in Virginia will be sold at ABC stores now.

There have also been some bills passed regarding alcohol sales at special events. The new legislation allows localities to create ordinances that permit longer event alcohol licenses at outdoor concession areas. Designated consumption areas can be established in “entertainment or walking districts.” Finally, another bill has made it possible for non-profits with the right licensing to sell low alcohol beverages for the sake of virtual fundraising efforts. 

Hours for Alcohol Sales in Virginia

For on-premise locations, the COVID-19 pandemic has not had any lasting effects on operating hours, and most bars and restaurants have returned to pre-pandemic hours. Legally, on-premise locations are allowed to sell alcohol between the hours of 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. Monday through Sunday. Restaurants and clubs that sell both food and drinks are permitted to sell alcohol from 6 a.m. to midnight. This is also true for off-premise or retail locations. 

On March 27, 2020, ABC stores changed their hours in order to help control the spread of the virus. Their doors were open from noon to 7 p.m. throughout the week. As of June 26, 2021, stores continue to open at noon and closing has been pushed back to 9 p.m. Some stores also limit their Sunday hours from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. As conditions and public safety concerns continue to evolve, these hours may change again. If you aren’t sure about hours of operation, you can get information for your nearest store at the store finder page

As a control state, Virginia closely regulates alcohol sales and maintains control over hard liquor sales. This allows them to better protect public safety while also collecting funds that go back towards supporting the state. However, Virginia’s government did find the flexibility to institute some new laws aimed at helping businesses survive the challenges of the pandemic.

FAQs

What are the alcohol laws in Virginia? 

Virginia is a control state, which means that there are state-run ABC stores that sell spirits while other retailers are permitted to sell wine and beer.

Can you buy alcohol in gas stations in Virginia? 

Gas stations are one type of retailer that are allowed to sell beer and wine, but not liquor.

How has Covid-19 affected Virginia alcohol sales? 

To help boost sales during the pandemic, Virginia has allowed to-go cocktails to be sold at licensed and approved establishments. There have also been some permit extensions so that outdoor special events can sell alcohol for longer.

What are the Virginia alcohol sales hours during Covid? 

As of June 26, 2020, stores open at noon and close at 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, most stores are open from noon to 6 p.m.

Can you buy alcohol on Sunday in Virginia?

Yes, you can purchase beer, wine, and liquor on Sundays.

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