By Brian J. Skinner, Esq.
Unlike recent legislative sessions, the 2nd session of the 85th West Virginia Legislature was not particularly interested in enacting legislation affecting nonintoxicating beer, wine, and liquor licenses. The Legislature appeared to be content to tweak legislation enacted in recent years. Only three bills received any consideration — Senate Bill 659, House Bill 4848,and House Bill 2972, and only H.B. 4848 was put to a final vote for enactment.
House Bill 4848 included amendments to several provisions of the current law regulating beer, wine, and liquor. The bill included a new section clarifying that current law does not require beer and wine to be bagged at the time of a retail sale to a consumer. Apparently, the amendment was in response to a misconception that there is a legal requirement that alcohol must be placed in a bag when sold to consumers.
The bill amends provisions related to licenses by prohibiting persons convicted of a crime involving fraud, dishonesty, or deceit or who were convicted of a felony violation of a state or federal liquor law from being licensed. It removed from the law a prohibition family members of commission members or any elected or appointed state official, county official, or municipal official, from being granted a license. It also removed a prohibition on members of the Legislature or any political party executive or their spouses from being granted a license.
The bill authorizes several new specialty licenses, including licenses for private bakeries that sell baked goods infused with liquor, wine, or nonintoxicating beer or nonintoxicating craft beer; private cigar shops that sell premium cigars for consumption on or off the licensed premises; private food trucks; and private college sports stadiums.
The bill also authorizes private hotels to provide members and guests who are 21 years of age or older to have secure access via key or key card to an in-room mini-bar in their rented short-term accommodation.
Additionally, holders of any private club license are also authorized to apply for and hold additional licenses for the purpose of holding events, such as fairs and festivals, and creating tourism opportunities that “will show case businesses in this state.”
Those holding a special license for a private fair and festival are permitted to sell sealed containers of beer, wine, and liquor for off-premises consumption if the beer, wine, or liquor is purchased from the licensed distributor that services the area in which the private fair, festival, or other event is being held.
The definition of a “wine growler” is amended to include ice or water mixed with the wine to create a frozen alcoholic beverage.
The convenience fee authorized for third-party private wine delivery licensees is increased from no greater than five dollars to no greater than $20 per delivery order and authorizes a total convenience fee of any order, sale, and delivery of a sealed growler, wine growler, or craft cocktail growler up to $20.
Finally, the bill decreases the distance for which alcohol may not be sold from within 300 feet of a church or school to 200 feet; includes a prohibition on the state purchase of alcoholic liquors manufactured in the Russian Federation; and increases the minimum retail markup from the current 110% to 112.5%.
The Senate version of H.B. 4848, S.B. 659, was passed by the Senate and was taken up by the House Committee on Government Organization which significantly amended the Senate committee substitute by adding new licenses, making changes to license requirements, and reducing fees throughout the state code related to the sale of alcohol. The amended Senate bill was adopted by the committee and sent to the House floor. However, because H.B. 4848 was on its way to passage, S.B. 659 didn’t get any further than second reading before it was placed on the inactive House calendar, where it remained until the Legislature adjourned sine die.
The other bill getting at least some attention during the session, House Bill 2972, authorized persons 21 years old or older to manufacture alcoholic liquor for personal or family use. The aggregate amount of alcoholic liquor manufactured per household may not exceed 100 gallons per calendar year for two or more persons and 50 gallons per calendar year for one person. The bill included a prohibition on the sale of manufactured alcohol.
The bill passed the House 74-22-4. However, after arriving in the Senate, the bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, which did not take it up before the Legislature adjourned.
Brian J. Skinner is the former counsel to the West Virginia House of Delegates Judiciary Committee and counsel to the West Virginia Senate Minority Caucus. He was also general counsel to the West Virginia State Health Officer and Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health. He has almost two-decades of experience as a strategic advisor and chief legal counsel to both executive and legislative branch public officials.