Briana Heaney Published

New Bill Would Make It Legal To Wine And Not Dine

Four hands clink four glasses of red wine at a dinner.Thanakorn/Adobe Stock

Updated on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024 at 6:25 p.m.

Currently, wineries are required to serve food if wine is going to be consumed on premises, but a new law advancing through the Senate would change that. 

Senate Bill 320 progressed to second reading Tuesday. The bill would remove the current requirement for wineries to serve food when any more than four ounces of wine is being consumed on site by a patron.

Sen. Mike Stuart, R-Kanawha, vice chair of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the bill is good for the state’s business climate. 

“This seems to be a smart move with less regulation, and more freedom,” Stuart said. “I trust people to do the right thing on this. The idea of whether there’s a cracker or there isn’t, is not gonna save somebody’s life.” 

Being required to serve food, requires extra permitting and overhead costs for wineries. Stuart said deregulation in this industry could bolster the vineyard and wine industry and aid tourism.

“We’ve got a huge potential for wine tourism growth,” Stuart said. “Tourism is booming in West Virginia, I think we need to embrace it as much as we can. That’s why I think less regulation: Let these wineries do what they can to bring in more people to grow West Virginia.” 

However, he says this is just a small change to deregulation of alcohol and drug sales. Unlike a bill that the House sent over to the Senate that legalizes making moonshine, or introduced legislation on the legalization of recreational Marijuana.

“It’s a very small tweak, not a huge change. I think it provides for freedom —  that’s reasonable. And we don’t have to worry about the safety of our communities on this,” he said.

Virginia, a top wine producing state, has laws similar to SB 320 that permit wine to be served without food being served. 

**Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story misidentified Sen. Mike Stuart, R-Kanawha, as Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha.