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General Assembly Snuffs Out Bill to Allow Alcohol in Cigar Bars

Stefan Salich / Flickr

Lawmakers in Richmond were considering allowing beer, wine and liquor at cigar bars. But, as Michael Pope reports, that effort hit serious opposition at the Capitol.

Cigar stores are a booming business in Virginia, a state where tobacco leaves are painted into the architectural details here at the Capitol. But lawmakers are snuffing out an effort to allow alcohol at cigar stores. Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw says Virginia has already carved out too many exemptions for nail salons and art museums and day spas.

“Once we start moving away from the food requirement, there’s going to be another bill in here to expand that and I think we will have just made a big mistake gradually moving the state toward corner bars.”

Restaurant and hotels have long opposed changing the required food-to-alcohol ratio, which keeps bars out of Virginia by requiring half of the revenue come from food. But Republican Senator Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach says it’s time to ditch it.

“I think it’s time that we look at the food-and-beverage ratio, and decide that perhaps that’s not something we need here any longer in Virginia. But up until that point and from here on, I’m going to resist any more of these bills until we finally get down to the root cause and start talking about that.”

And so a coalition of people who want to prevent the spread of bars joined a group of lawmakers that want to advocate for bars to prevent alcohol from being served in cigar shops.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.