New bill aims to allow art classes to serve wine and beer
Scrutiny in the Virginia Senate is all that lies between local art studios and the ability to serve wine or beer during classes. The bill in quiestion, HB1482 was agreed to almost unanimously in the Virginia House of Delegates last week. The bill will see a Senate committee and then, if all goes well, a floor vote.
The bill would create a special “art instruction studio” license to allow art studios to serve two glasses of wine or one beer to any student during a class. The studios would not be able to serve beer or wine without a class or charge an additional fee. Of course, all patrons would need to be 21.
Local studios, who previously could not hold the classes with a bit of booze, are excited to finally get the opportunity.
“We have always sort of felt that we were behind the eight ball,” said Jennifer Kirby, owner of Crossroads Art Center. “A lot of the ones offering classes are doing it in restaurants or doing it in like a wine bar which is associated with it. Us, not having access to that, but having the space and having the talent to teach the classes were like ‘well, darn, how do we do this?’”
In most cases in Virginia, to serve any alcohol, an establishment must have a fully functioning kitchen and serve food. Crossroads Art Center does not have a kitchen.
But studios like Crossroads would like to get started as soon as the license would go into effect on July 1 of this year.
“We definitely would get the ball rolling immediately on these classes,” said Kirby.
Other studios are more hesitant. Side Street Gallery was founded in 2013 in Colonial Heights and has recently began offering art classes.
“That would be something we would consider doing,” said Judy Harris, co-owner of Side Street Gallery. “We would like to do that in the future.”
Both art spaces, however, can’t ignore the growing popularity of the classes. They agreed that it would improve their offerings.
“I think that this is a really popular thing that is going on right now,” said Harris “Everybody wants to get their group together and have a glass of wine or two and learn to paint a picture. It’s a nice event.”
The increased offerings also allow the studios to provide increased opportunities for their employees.
“It will provide jobs for my art teachers and for their assistants,” said Kirby. “It will provide the art center with more income because we will be able to rent out space to teachers who will be able to teach those.”
Kirby believes that while overall attendance would improve at Crossroads, the increased interest would only affect these specific classes.
“Our normal classes will stay pretty much same, they aren’t drinking during class,” said Kirby. “These would be specifically ‘wine by design’ classes. We would be able to offer those classes that we don’t offer now.”
Critics of the bill argued that the classes could take away business from restaurants in the area.
“The legislature has seen fit not to remove the responsibility to sell and serve food from restaurants but yet you’re now allowing other businesses to sell alcohol without the same responsibilities,” said Tom Lisk, general counsel to the Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association. “You’ll be back here next year, whether its clothing shops that want to be able to serve alcohol to customers or Jiffy Lubes to get a beer while you wait for your oil change.”
But dissent, even among conservative republicans, was obvious at a recent committee meeting. Del. Todd Gilbert, the chairman of the General Laws Committee responded to Lisk’s concerns saying “You can get lubed up while your car gets lubed up.”
Layne Summerfield, the local franchisee of the official Wine and Design, said that her business does painting classes inside of restaurants in the area. The Win and Design concept was cited specifically by advocate for the new bill.
But Summerfield admited her business would not be as directly affected by the change in law – she already works with restaurants regularly, include Riptides in Chester, Tuscan Brio at Sony Point and Barrel Thief at Libby Grove.
Summerfield said that those nights bring lots of business into the restaurants.
Crossroads has plans in place with their new neighbor, Project One, to offer classes if the bill fails. “We were going to have classes in there in the late afternoon, happy hour classes, or evening classes,” said Kirby. “We would run it through their site with their ABC license. That’s how we we’re going to get around it.”
Top image via Wine and Design Richmond
Ben Weiner is a contributor for GayRVA and RVAMag. 'Nuff said.
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