CHARLES TOWN – Rob Losey says he worries his business will suffer in the coming year because the House and Senate were unable to agree on just how to roll back the state’s blue laws, which would have allowed the hospitality industry to serve alcohol on Sundays.
He said a major opportunity has been missed.
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“(The change) has the potential of doubling our West Virginia business,” said Losey, sales director at Bloomery Plantation Distillery. “It was very disappointing. It is very painful from an income standpoint. I went to bed Saturday night thinking that everything was all good and woke up Sunday morning very disappointed.”
Bloomery, based in Charles Town, produces eight varieties of liqueurs, but specializes in production of an Italian digestif called “lemoncello.”
The two bills in question – HB4454 and HB4455 – would have allowed distilleries like Bloomery to hold tasting events on Sundays, and would have allowed licensed clubs and restaurants to begin serving at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays rather than at 1 p.m.
Versions of both bills received overwhelming support by lawmakers, but the bills were passed back and forth as the two houses were unable to reach agreement on the wording before the 60-day session ended at midnight on Saturday.
“Within the last few minutes of the evening, they didn’t make it,” Losey said. “There was some confusion over opening and closing times.”
Losey said he plans to lobby again on the issue next year for passage of similar legislation. “It is too important for us not to.”
He said expanding the state’s Sunday alcohol sales will help to develop more wineries and distilleries in the area.
“From an industry standpoint, I also see it as a constraint on other distilleries because if they are choosing between Virginia and West Virginia, the scale would tip away from us,” he said.
Rather than viewing new wineries and distilleries in the area as competition, Losey said bringing more to the area would help to establish Jefferson County as a destination for tasting tours.
“I would welcome them with open arms,” he said. “It would make us more of a destination. If there was one winery in Northern Virginia, it would starve. But there are 50 of them, so they prosper.”