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Booze Call: Distilleries can ship directly to consumers

(WCAX)
Published: Apr. 6, 2020 at 5:43 PM EDT
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For Virginia residents, alcohol runs could be made with a quick trip to the front door.

The

it would allow certain distilleries to ship directly to in-state customers to alleviate potential financial hardships during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Virginia distilleries contribute to the economic vitality of the commonwealth and it’s important that they have some flexibility in how they are able to provide their products to consumers while their tasting rooms are closed,” said Chief Executive Officer Travis Hill. “The Virginia Distillers Association is a key partner in working with our distillery store agents to craft responsible policy solutions to address the unprecedented circumstances of this crisis. This temporary addendum to distillery store agreements is one example of many since this crisis where we have provided our licensees with relief from regulatory challenges in areas where we have the authority to do so.”

The rule change only affects distilleries with an existing agreement with ABC. There are about 45 distilleries throughout the state with existing agreements.

The change allows distilleries to ship spirits and “low-alcohol beverage coolers” directly to residents and ABC-licensed restaurants in Virginia.

The following caveats apply:

• No distiller may sell more than six bottles of spirits or two cases of low alcohol beverage coolers to any one consumer or licensee per month.

• Bottles of spirits shipped may be no larger than 1.75 liters.

• The distiller must ensure the recipient is at least 21 years of age.

• Direct shipment must be made by an approved common carrier (currently FedEx or UPS).

• Signature of an individual 21 years of age or older is required for delivery.

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary support,” says Virginia Distillers Association President Gareth H. Moore. “Enacting temporary in-state direct to consumer shipping privileges for local distilleries is a reasonable lifeline for our industry, which employs almost 1,500 Virginians. This new form of market access will provide industry members both small and large with a mechanism to get product to consumers, easing distillers’ angst for how they will pay wages and sustain business in light of market access restrictions.”

ABC Chief Executive Officer Travis Hill said distilleries are essential to the “economic vitality” of the state. Hill said the temporary step gives the distilleries flexibility in how they provide products for customers, which may help lessen potential financial difficulties.

Some restrictions apply. Distilleries can't ship more than six bottles of spirits or two cases of coolers to any one consumer per month. Distilleries also have to ensure recipients are 21 years old.

Last month, Gov. Ralph Northam said Virginia ABC stores would be recognized as essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States issued the following statement in response:

“The Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control continues to think outside of the box and offer creative solutions to combat the spread of COVID-19 while still supporting the state’s hospitality industry. Allowing Virginia’s distillers to deliver their spirits products to consumers will help alleviate some of the economic turmoil these small businesses now face. These innovative ideas will allow distilleries to remain operational while protecting public health – a move that is critical for the local economy and those in the hospitality industry. We look forward to the day when the ABC stores can provide the same service to adult consumers across the Commonwealth.”