VIRGINIA'S HOSPITALITY & TRAVEL BLOG
The Virginia Spirits Board is celebrating Virginia Spirits Month in September and we hope you, our licensee partners, will celebrate with us! We have a whole line up of events and special opportunities for consumers and licensees alike to join in the celebration! Click here to read the press release from Virginia ABC
How can you celebrate?
Who is the Virginia Spirits Board?
The Virginia Spirits Board was established in 2020 by enactment of the Virginia General Assembly. It was created to provide resources for promotion of the Virginia spirits industry by a number of means approved by an administrative board appointed by the Governor. The purpose of the Board is to foster the development of the Virginia spirits industry by expanding spirits research, increasing education, and promoting the production of ingredients necessary for alcohol distillation and the production of spirits in the Commonwealth.
The Board is comprised of eleven members, three of whom are coopers or maltsters and six of whom are owners or operators of a distillery in the Commonwealth. The remaining two members are the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, and they serve ex officio without voting privileges.
The Virginia Spirits Board Marketing Office, operated by the Hodges Partnership – a strategic communications firm located in Richmond, VA, has partnered with Drink Local, producer of the Virginia Spirits Expos, to help promote the Virginia Spirits industry and provide additional opportunities for consumers to engage with local distillers. For more information about the Virginia Spirits Board visit www.virginiaspirits.com and for more information about the Virginia Spirits Expos visit www.virginiaspiritsexpo.com
The Virginia Spirits Board Marketing Office is proud to be a new Gold Level Partner with the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Tourism Association for 2023/24.
Join Us! VRLTA PAC Hampton Roads Dinner September 13
Political season is upon us, with all 140 seats of the General Assembly up for re-election under completely new district lines drawn in a way that they never have before. We will experience historic turnover in the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia, there is absolutely no doubt.
Virginia’s hoteliers and restaurateurs are losing many faithful legislative champions for our industries, and that is why it is incumbent upon us to identify and uplift new policymakers who are focused on helping the hospitality and tourism industries in the Commonwealth!
Our best tool to accomplish that is VRLTA PAC. VRLTA member leader Chris Savvides is graciously hosting a seated dinner at his Virginia Beach restaurant Black Angus to support VRLTA PAC. Please take a moment to RSVP. The details are below.
WHEN: September 13, 2023 from 6:30 – 9:30 PM
WHERE: Black Angus Restaurant, 1340 N. Great Neck Road, Suite 1228, Virginia Beach, VA 23454
COST: $200 per seat/$350 per couple
CLICK HERE TO RSVP
Prince William Meals Tax Event
VRLTA was excited to re-connect this week with our network in Prince William County as well as Supervisor Jeanine Lawson of Brentsville who is running for Prince William County Board Chair At-Large this year. Prince William restauranteurs have been busy on the ground raising awareness of the burdensome meals tax that was implemented this year by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.
Supervisor Lawson has committed, alongside others, to a repeal of the meals tax in the event of a change in the majority of the Board. This would be an exciting development and a big message sent to other localities that may be considering these meals taxes with their newfound freedom to institute them without a popular referendum. VRLTA wants to make it clear in advance to Virginia’s localities that may be looking at meals taxes that we will be there to oppose them wherever they might pop up.
Help Restaurants by Contacting Your Senator on Swipe Fees
One issue that seems to only become more costly to VRLTA members is the rising cost of credit card swipe fees. This week, the Senate may have an opportunity to vote on the Credit Card Competition Act (CCCA), but securing this vote is an uphill battle. That’s why we need you to take two minutes to tell your senators why this legislation is important to you.
NRA Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Sean Kennedy goes over this critical legislation in his most recent 90 second update, which you can find here. If passed, CCCA would save businesses and consumers an estimated $15 billion a year.
The National Restaurant Association, alongside VRLTA, has been working on this issue for years, and we are proud to support this legislation — but we need your help.
Tell your senators to stand up for restaurants by passing the Credit Card Competition Act - click here to act!
This is Election Season, Let’s Make Connections!
As VRLTA continues to connect with candidates and legislators across the Commonwealth alongside our members, we are encouraging you to do so as well! This is truly an unprecedented election year here in Virginia, and the General Assembly is set to experience historic levels of turnover. That means that candidates and sitting legislators who are running in Virginia’s radically new legislative districts are eager to meet and connect with their voters. That means YOU!
If you don’t know who represents you now, or who is running to represent you, no problem! There is a combination of tools that can get you up to speed. You can use Virginia’s Who’s My Legislator Tool to learn what district you’re now in, and the Virginia Public Access Project to see just who is running to represent you! Please take every opportunity you can to connect with these candidates. Forming relationships early can prove extremely helpful down the road when this huge new crop of legislators are looking for guidance from their voters on policy.
Save the Date: VRLTA PAC Dinner September 13 in Virginia Beach
More info to come soon, but please mark your calendars for what will be a great evening supporting a helpful organization for our industries.
Nearly all laws that pass in the Virginia General Assembly’s Regular Session, convened annually in January for either 46 or 60 days, go into effect on the succeeding 1st of July. VRLTA wants to make sure that you are ready! Below you will find some of the most pressing of the new laws that will affect hotel and restaurant operations going forward. This list is by no means exhaustive, and if you are interested to see what other laws will be going into effect on July 1, I highly recommend reading the publication In Due Course, which is compiled by Virginia’s Division of Legislative Services annually for just that purpose.
Human Trafficking Training
Starting July 1, all hotel employees will need to complete a course in identifying and stopping human trafficking. The Department of Criminal Justice Services has completed work on a state-provided course which can be accessed at no cost by anyone, as well as an informative page for operators with answers to frequently-asked questions. They are also maintaining a list of approved courses, which includes many of the courses common to the larger brands, including the ECPAT course. Take a moment and ensure that your employees are in compliance, as the Virginia Department of Health will start enforcing this requirement as part of each hotel’s annual site inspection. If you have questions, contact Tommy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Association Healthcare Plan
On July 1, associations like VRLTA and others will be able to offer their members and member companies access to an association-wide healthcare plan, which will open up a great opportunity for restaurant and hotel employees and employers for whom healthcare benefits had previously been out of reach. VRLTA is working on finalizing the details of the plan that we will offer to our members through United Healthcare, and we hope to have more detailed news on this for you ASAP.
Barrier Crimes for ABC Manager
We worked with Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker of Fairfax to pass a bill which will make it easier for qualifying employees who are re-entering citizens be able to reach ABC manager status in Virginia restaurants.
Oyster Shell Tax Credit
This year a new, unique tax instrument will become available in the Commonwealth, designed to both help oyster production in the Bay, and reward seafood purveyors with a mind for conservation. These two bills work together to establish the Oyster Shell Waste Diversion Fund, and to make oyster shell donation for recycling an eligible activity to receive funds from the Virginia Oyster Replenishment Fund. This will help restaurant operators serving fresh oysters and will help support greater populations of Virginia oysters in the Bay.
Please take all of the appropriate steps to make sure that you and your businesses are in compliance and/or taking advantage of these new incoming laws. Of course, if you have questions or concerns about anything that you’re reading here, please do not hesitate to reach out to Tommy Herbert, Director of Government Affairs, at Tommy@VRLTA.org.
VRLTA Priority Bills Signed into Law
In the time since the end of the 2023 General Assembly Session, several pieces of legislation that will make a big difference for members of the Virginia Restaurant Lodging and Travel Association (VRLTA) have been amended and signed into law by Governor Youngkin:
Association Health Plans – SB1171, which VRLTA worked on alongside Senator Siobhan Dunnavant of Henrico has been signed. Starting July 1, associations like ours will be able to offer members access to an association-wide healthcare benefits plan, much like an employer. VRLTA is working closely now with United Healthcare to plan a comprehensive rollout of our plan as soon as possible, and hope to have more news for members on that topic soon.
ABC Manager Status – HB1730, which VRLTA worked on alongside Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker of Fairfax has an added technical amendment from the Governor, and will take effect July 1 as well. This bill helps reduce the barrier crimes that would bar a citizen returning from being involved with the justice system from achieving ABC Manager status at a Virginia restaurant. This is a big step in providing more and better employment opportunities to folks that are returning from incarceration, which is one of the most important indicators of how likely someone is to re-offend.
Oyster Replenishment Fund/Tax Credit – HB1438 and SB997, which VRLTA worked on alongside Delegate Tim Anderson and Senator Monty Mason of Hampton Roads, establish a fund by which the Commonwealth will be able to compensate folks for the recycling of their empty oyster shells. The credit is available up to $1,500 per year, and could make a big impact both for the bay and for the restauranteurs and hoteliers who delight in serving its produce.
Norfolk Delegates Cheer On Students at VPSI
This year’s Virginia ProStart Invitational took place at Old Dominion University on April 12. Teams of high school students from across the Commonwealth converged on Norfolk to compete in culinary and restaurant management competitions. The annual event, hosted by VRLTA, was also attended by area legislators Delegate Jackie Glass and Delegate Angelia Williams-Graves who both represent the area.
Still Waiting for Draft Pool Regulations from Health Department
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is still working on the forthcoming re-write of Virginia’s statewide pool regulations. VRLTA has connected with VDH to re-iterate how important it is to hotel industry operations for these regulations to contemplate the difference between public pools and hotel pools for the purposes of lifeguard mandates. Once these draft regulations are released, VRLTA will be working closely with members to facilitate public comment from the industry regarding the proposed changes and advocacy for the common-sense course forward on the topic.
VRLTA PAC Fundraising Dinner is a Huge Success
VRLTA staff were grateful to host a coterie of the Commonwealth’s leaders in the hospitality, restaurant, and tourism industries in April at an evening event at L’Auberge Chez Francois, experiencing the famous hospitality of Chef Jacques Haeringer and Carol Huebner in the warm embrace of Great Falls in Northern Virginia. VRLTA PAC was able to raise over 12,000 dollars to help support the legislative champions that we rely on in the halls of the General Assembly to craft good policy and address industry threats. With every seat of the Virginia General Assembly up for grabs this year, and historic turnover in the legislature already guaranteed, VRLTA PAC remains one of our most potent tools to protect our industries from harmful legislative threats in the future.