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Can this work in Virginia?

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OK, without going in to too much detail, a friend and I are looking at bringing a national concept to HR, probably to the oceanfront. I am not going to tell you what it is, other than to say it is a proven concept, typically around 4K sq. ft., very popular in tourist areas, but will also have a year round appeal. The issue I am struggling with, and my partner (experienced in food and beverage in other states, not in Va) is as well, is how do you make a bar work with Va.'s liquor laws? This concept is not known for food -- can be done, but I don't know how you jump over the liquor laws and the food percentage requirement.

There are some really smart people here -- let the comments begin. When (and if) we open, we will sponsor a huge UP party!

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Honestly, the liquor laws are what have kept those certain types of businesses from VA. There really isn't a way that I know of to get around the laws. First thing that I would do is consult a lawyer that is very up to date on the VA laws. He/she would probably be the best bet. It might cost a bit but it would make sure that you didn't lose a bunch of money diving into this just to be disappointed. I've always found that there are loop holes so the lawyers would know how to get around them. I know this isn't what you were looking for but I don't think any of us are lawyers.

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I'll hazard a guess as to what this concept is considering the prevalence of certain establishments in Las Vegas, Miami, Savannah river walk, New Orleans, etc. and say that you definitely need a food component. Since the machines are similar, what about a combo fro-yo shop and/or panini cafe (pre-made ones quickly grilled like in Barnes & Noble)? That might work and not take away from the booze atmosphere.

If I remember Virginia ABC laws correctly, at least 50% of revenue has to be from food sales (this might include t-shirts, but I don't know that) in order to sell alcohol. Lots of notable VB establishments have had their license stripped and owners fined because they tried to cook the books to keep their license.

But here's another question. If my guess is correct, this place isn't really a stay-and-drink establishment. It's a drink-and-go. Since open containers are illegal, then how does that fit in? Or do you plan a horseshoe type bar to allow consumption?

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I want to thank everyone for the useful inputs -- probably the best one was Russ' to contact an attorney! Others had some "creative registering" (ring up a $8 Captain and coke as $5 for the coke, and $3 for the liquor) ways. One thing I didn't know, was that the 55/45 split between food and liquor, includes beer and soft drinks in the food category. So, not as big a hill to climb as I thought. In fact, one "expert" we talked to, pointed out that by staying away from multiple liquor drinks and focusing on beer, wine coolers, and simpler mixed drinks, we could probably keep in those ratios and never serve a bit of food. Anyway, we have a lead on an existing building, in a good location at the Oceanfront, of the right size. Several other hurdles to overcome (like MANY!), but for now this is still in the "doable" category. Will keep all of you posted, and thanks again for the suggestions/tactics.

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