How do you get a license for an Event Center, in Virginia?

Crystal Stump (owner and CEO of ABC Consulting and former Virginia ABC Special Agent from the Alcohol Beverage Control Authority) explains how to get a license for your Event Center.

Pour yourself a drink; you’re going to need it!

Welcome back. Today, we are going to talk about how to get a license for an Event Center. In Virginia, event centers are often looking for ways to license their venue to sell or serve alcohol.

I am not an attorney, but I am here to talk about my opinion about options for event centers. I have been helping businesses obtain their licenses and stay compliant for many years. If you know something different from my opinion, I welcome your comments – please let me know who told you the information and what you’ve heard. We need to make sure that licensees are given consistent information (there are nine regions in the state of Virginia and sometimes the information is different from region to region, but Licensees should have the same rules and privileges, across the state, even from region-to-region, and if they are not consistent, we need to have a conversation about that). If you have come across an inconsistence, please reach out or comment, below.

Let’s talk about an Event Center, today. This venue license is for businesses that hold events, consume alcohol, eat their dinner, or even hold dances. There isn’t a specific license for an event venue, at this moment, but I hope there will be one, one day. But, how do businesses get around this, compliantly?

If you would like to cater to parties, special occasions or weddings, one option is leasing out the space. That person obtains a one-day license (Virginia ABC calls that a Banquet License). The individual has to qualify for that license. There are ten different banquet licenses (private, festivals, non-profits, etc.). We need to make sure that individual qualifies for a license. This is an option: to make your person who is leasing out the space for their event applies for and gets their own license. We can help them obtain that license. Send them to our website, as soon as they’ve booked their event and have them fill out our Simplified Form, here ( or click the wedding bouquet, on our website ). As soon as you know that they are renting your space, give them our information. That way they’ll get the license on time, apply for the correct license and we’ll be standing by to make sure that they have filled out the application correctly and that there are no red flags to hold up licensing.

But there are other options, because most venues want to capitalize on the sales of alcohol, at these private functions.

A venue can get a Catering License. They would cater food and get an alcohol license, as part of that Catering license. They can travel with that license or use it at the venue. The packages need to include food and alcohol. That catering license requires the caterer to do $48,000 a year in food sales, in order to maintain that license.

A venue could apply for a Restaurant License – this can be either be a Wine and Beer license or a Wine, Beer and Mixed Drink license. Don’t get freaked out about the challenging requirements for food sales for a Restaurant license. It is only $2,000 a month in food sales for Wine & Beer license. You could hit those sales minimums, in one weekend or even one event! Another solution would be to use the Restaurant license (if your talent isn’t food) and hire a private catering company for your events. This would allow you to operate as a restaurant.

Another option is to operate as a restaurant with bare minimum requirements met (with this license, there are no requirements for hours or operating days, per week) with a simple café or permanent food truck. (Note: Watch my video about that Food Truck option). You could use this café or food truck for every event (Wedding reception, private party, etc.), just like a full-time restaurant. In other words, a full-time restaurant could close their venue on Saturday for a private event and sell that party the food and wine and beer as part of the event they book. Your business would do that, but only at the events, themselves.

Another option is to open a Winery or Brewery on your venue property. They don’t have the same food requirements.

A final option is a Concession license for your entertainment venue. This particular license has less stringent requirements for tables and seating and even food sales.

All sorts of farms are popping up that have a big barn and book weddings, parties and dances. You want to make a good plan to have food that people would want to serve at their event – it doesn’t have to be high end, but it does have to be desirable food: flat-bread pizza or gourmet sandwiches would be fine!

But, bottom line, if you want to sell alcohol, you have to have an alcohol license of some kind – or require your customer to lease the space and get their own license.

If you are considering an alcohol license (Catering, Restaurant, Concession), fill out the form here – and we’ll send you an estimate of the cost of the license or the cost of our services. There are a lot of licenses out there, and hopefully this video has pointed you towards the best license for your business plan.

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