City Paper is not for tourists
States such as Maryland and Virginia can always brag about how their alcohol-control systems lead to lower rates of underage drinking and fewer alcohol-related traffic fatalities for people under 21 than open jurisdictions. Fine, but as Jessica Gould reported this week, some of Virginia’s alcohol laws are so restrictive—-dare I say controlling—-that you can’t even order a decent glass of sangria in the state.
Now comes the latest restaurant dust-up with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control: Frank Morales has been trying to introduce a beer popsicle to his suds-heavy menu at Rustico in Alexandria, but, according to the Associated Press, the Virginia ABC says the chef’s summer treat may break regulations requiring that “beer be served in its original container or served to the customer immediately once it’s poured.”
Let’s not fool ourselves here all right? These sangria and beer laws have little to do with protecting the public from potential harm—-and almost everything to do with making sure the state collects its rightful money. After all, when it comes to specialty drinks and custom-made treats such as sangria and beer popsicles, state agents have no idea if the restaurants are actually using legally purchased alcohol.
The Virginia ABC, of course, needs to make sure that licensees follow the money-generating rules, which contributes hundreds of millions to the state’s coffers. But when laws prohibit the simple pleasure of downing a glass of brandy-spiked sangria in the summer or limit the ambitions of a creative chef like Morales, then the state’s got problems.
Virginia desperately needs to rewrite a few of its more draconian alcohol laws, which, in this day and age, look petty and absolutely Luddite.