Virginia Outdoor Dining and Carry-Out Cocktails Get a Longer Lease on Life

Many restaurants have taken advantage of the relaxed outdoor dining regulations in Alexandria, setting up table in streets, parking spots, and on sidewalks. (Photo: Grace Billups Arnold)

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, along with Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, sent a request to the Virginia Governor Ralph Northam regarding the relaxed regulations surrounding cocktails.

This request included deferring alcohol license renewals and extending the permission of carry-out cocktails. License renewal has been deferred for 90 days from each license holder’s original date of expiration, and the carry-out cocktail extension has been granted through July 1, 2022.

For many restaurants, cocktails are a primary financial vein, and when dining indoors is restricted—or in many cases, eliminated—that vein suffocates.

Tequila and Taco has much success selling carry-out cocktails, like these mason jar margaritas, thanks to the relaxed regulations. (Photo: Courtesy of Bill Blackburn, Homegrown Restaurant Group)

Bill Blackburn of Homegrown Restaurant Group says of this extension, “This benefits our Mexican concept ‘Tequila and Taco’ the most since margaritas are a natural part of the program there. The ability to sell margaritas to-go benefits everyone, I mean, who doesn’t need a margarita right now?”

In addition to extending the relaxed carry-out cocktail rules, the City of Alexandria will extend the relaxed rules on its outdoor dining scene as well. Mayor Justin Wilson states, “Outdoor dining was allowed in certain places, but was heavily regulated. We basically threw out those rules, and have allowed dining in streets, on sidewalks, parking lots, wherever we can make it work.”

Tables and chairs like these outside The Creamery in Old Town Alexandria can stay a lot longer thanks to new extension. (Photo: Grace Billups Arnold)

City permit fees for adapting outdoor dining operations have been waived, and the city, along with the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP), has already provided funding for restaurant, retail, and fitness businesses wishing to winterize their outdoor areas.

The ALX B2B All Weather Grant was approved to provide $500,000 of federal CARES Act funding to businesses who already hold permits for outdoor operations. In addition, according to an update from the AEDP website, “94 small businesses in Alexandria have received a $5,000 grant to support the acquisition and deployment of ‘all-weather’ and winterization equipment and materials.”

Funding is a foremost concern, because not only does restaurant revenue provide jobs and income to thousands in the Alexandria area, but also those consumption based taxes fund vital city operations such as schools, fire and police departments, etc.

Because restaurants and restaurant sales affect many lives, and may facets of those lives, this legislation has broad support across the state of Virginia. From Richmond to Alexandria, from mayors to the governor, from patrons to business-owners, entrepreneurs to restauranteurs, support for the extension of these relaxed regulations is a wild fire, and it is catching quickly.

Both of these laws “were designed to help keep our businesses afloat during this challenging time,” explains Mayor Wilson. An extension of these relaxed regulations will allow restaurants to adjust to a new normal, as things will most likely never return to normal as we once knew it.

Bill Blackburn concludes, “This is just one step towards regulations that better fit our society.”

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