Justice to consider restaurant bill born out of pandemic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A restaurant industry spokesman says a bill Gov. Jim Justice will soon consider should help with the bounce back after the pandemic.

Richie Heath

House Bill 2025 was approved by state lawmakers on the final day of the regular legislative session. Supporters say it will make West Virginia one of the most progressive states in the country for alcohol laws and permitting.

West Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association Executive Director Richie Heath said the bill codifies things like outdoor dining and the delivery of alcohol that was allowed when indoor dining was prohibited during the pandemic.

“It tries to help streamline some of West Virginia’s more archaic provisions and be more business friendly in terms of how the state’s alcohol regulations are in place,” Heath said.

It’s anticipated Gov. Justice will sign the bill when he gets it. It’s yet to arrive on his desk. He’s mentioned the bill favorably in his post-session comments.

Heath tells MetroNews the restaurant industry in West Virginia had approximately 53,000 employees before COVID-19 hit which dipped to 31,000 a few weeks into the pandemic. He said the governor allowed the relaxing of regulations for outdoor dining and allowed some license holders to deliver alcohol to customers. Heath said the bill codifies those provisions.

“I think this is really about sort of getting out of the way and allowing restaurants and other establishments to have all of the tools needed to attract customers back in and really succeed,” Heath said.

If signed, West Virginia would allow the following as Kanawha County Delegate Kayla Young pointed out on Twitter:

•Carryout & curbside cocktails
•Sunday 6 am alcohol sales
•Drive thru purchases
•BYOB Restaurants
•Home delivery of alcohol
•Intrastate shipping
•Easier patio permitting
•Home brewer festival permits
•Wine, Cider, Cocktail growlers

“This makes the state much more progressive on this front and makes West Virginia even more attractive for tourists and those who are coming here regularly to visit and have a good time,” Heath said.

If signed by Gov. Justice, the provisions of the bill would take effect May 10.

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