Virginia Wine Council Legislative Update

Below are some updates from the lastest Virginia Wine Council newsletter on recent legislation going before the House and Senate

VWC Legislation Passes Both the House and Senate

We reported last week that HB2071 and SB1033 were on their third readings and were up for a vote by the full House and Senate. Both bills have passed unanimously! HB2071 has been communicated to the Senate for consideration. Because the bills are in identical form, we expect unanimous passage in House and Senate committees, following Crossover on February 10.  As you are aware, the VWC sought sponsorship of these bills to amend Section 15.2-2288.3 to provide that localities must take into consideration the agricultural nature of farm wineries before attempting to restrict the on-site marketing and sale of wine. Delegate Ed Scott (R-Culpeper) and Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) sponsored HB2071 and SB1033, respectively.”

VWC Succeeds in Amending Threatening ABC Legislation

Last week we reported that Delegate Tommy Wright (R-Lunenburg) had sponsored legislation that would permit the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to revoke the licenses of any establishment, including farm wineries, for certain enumerated activities. Under the introduced form of the bill, a license could have been suspended or revoked if a licensee operated the licensed premises (e.g., a farm winery) in such a manner so as to adversely affect real property values within the adjacent area.  A license could also have been revoked if a licensee substantially interfered with the usual quietude and tranquility of an adjacent residence or residential area.

If this legislation had been enacted, disgruntled neighbors of Virginia wineries could claimed that the everyday activities of those wineries have had lowered the value of their adjacent property or disrupted their quietude (machinery, events, traffic, etc.). Working with the sponsor of the bill, the Speaker of the House, and Curtis Coleburn of ABC, we amended the bill by striking all of the language relating to property values and usual quietude. This amended language has been reported (passed) by the General Laws Committee ABC/Gaming subcommittee and will be voted on by the full committee next week.”

VWC Defeats Attempt to Further Regulate Farm Wineries

Delegate Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax) submitted HB2606 that would have allowed Virginia counties operating under the urban county form of government to further regulate the operations of farm wineries, despite the existing prohibition contained in Virginia Code Section 15.2-2288.3. Currently, only Fairfax County is organized under urban county governance. The VWC actively opposed this bill, because of the potential of its extension to other counties in future years. Fortunately, the VWC was not alone in its desire to protect the interests of the wine industry in Virginia. The House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee voted to pass the bill by indefinitely on a voice vote Wednesday morning, meaning that the bill was defeated. Delegates Chris Saxman (R-Staunton) and Bobby Orrock (R-Caroline) deserve much credit for leading the charge to defend our industry against this legislation. In committee, Delegate Saxman openly praised farm wineries for their contribution to agriculture and tourism and discouraged any attempt at new regulation by localities.”

Senate Committee Passes Legislation to Save Wine of the Month Club

Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) sponsored legislation on behalf of his constituent, Willis Logan, to clarify that he may continue his present business model of soliciting wine club memberships at wine festivals and events. In recent months, ABC had ruled that such solicitation constituted a sale of alcohol and was therefore not permitted under present law. The bill, known as SB1445 , will permit “wine of the month club” operators to solicit memberships at any location for which a permit to consume alcohol has been issued, including restaurants.

As part of that solicitation, wine clubs may take applications from consumers that include forms of payment. The VWC worked to amend an earlier version of the legislation that would have allowed any in or out-of-state wine shipper to solicit wine club memberships anywhere at any time in the Commonwealth. Naturally, our concern was that large out of state shippers would be able to set up booths in Costcos or street corners. Although it would have been unconstitutional for the Virginia legislature to favor Virginia wine clubs over out of state ones, by limiting the places where memberships may be solicited to ABC-on establishments and events for both in and out-of-state wine clubs, Virginia wineries retain greater control.”

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