Just Approved: Pharaohs Bar & Hookah

VA ABC Consulting - Hookah Lounge Licensing

Crystal Stump (owner and CEO of ABC Consulting and former Virginia ABC Special Agent from the Alcohol Beverage Control Authority) shows you, in this video, how you can get an ABC license for your Hookah lounge.

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

Before we get started, if you haven’t subscribed to our channel, please do! And if you are already enjoying this channel, please click the bell notification – so you’ll get notified of new videos. It will also help other people browsing YouTube to see our channel. ABC Consulting’s channel is for anyone unsure of how to navigate ABC regulations or for anyone who needs to know all the steps of the process. ABC Consulting was created in 2009 after my retirement from the VA Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Division, to help businesses such as yours to run a successful and compliant business. In fact, ABC Consulting was created because of my expertise with alcohol regulation (I am a former ABC Agent). This business provides as much help and information, as possible to current and future VA ABC alcohol licensees. If you need an ABC license (or if you want to keep your ABC license), SUBSCRIBE to this channel!

So back to the content of how to get an alcohol license for a Hookah lounge:

Many hookah lounges want to serve or sell alcohol, so this video will go over how to qualify for this license type. The Hookah Lounge business model has really taken off in Virginia and if your expertise is in the tobacco and vape, you need to understand what you need to know about alcohol. First off, know the health code regulations for your smoking area.  This is regulated by your city/county and the health department. Obviously, make sure you have the proper ventilation in your smoking area. You may need separate ventilation in the kitchen and the smoking area. As far as an alcohol license, itself, VA ABC Authority doesn’t have a specific Hookah Lounge license, so if you want to sell alcoholic beverages (beer, wine or mixed beverages by the glass), you will have to qualify for a restaurant license. You should that about that, now, while you are creating your business plan: How are you going to make enough food sales, each month [$2,000-$4,000], to qualify for a restaurant license? Because that is really the only license that a Hookah lounge can qualify for: 1) A Wine Beer Restaurant license or 2) Wine Beer and Mixed Beverage license.

In order to qualify for a Wine Beer restaurant license, you need to have $2,000 a month in food sales and of that $2,000, $1,000 of it needs to be in entrée sales. If you want to sell Wine, Beer and Mixed Beverages, you need to have $4,000 in food sales and of that $4,000, $2,000 of it needs to be entrées. By the way, the way that the VA ABC Authority defines an entrée is a substantial meal: a protein, a carb and a fat. A slice of pizza, a hot dog or spaghetti is considered an entrée. Pretty simple stuff! But, you do need to make sure that you don’t have any challenges  in the application process, so it is a good idea to add side items to your entrées, to keep it crystal clear that this is, in fact, an entrée! Even if a hot dog qualifies as an entrée, add a side of potato chips or coleslaw. And you don’t have to have an extravagant menu, but you do need to provide entrées and make sure your sales add up to the requirement of the ABC. Your menu isn’t as  important as your monthly sales, so if you make an awesome pizza and you can make a $2,000 in entrée sales, you’re good. You can sell only pizza (which is considered an entrée) and not add any sides or desserts to your menu to ensure your sales are high enough to stay above the threshold of your particular license ($2,000 in monthly sales for a Wine Beer license or $4,000 for a Wine Beer and Mixed Beverage license).

Each and every month, you’ll need to stay focused on your monthly sales. In fact, that is the VA ABC Authority’s main concern: they aren’t going to regulate you on your kitchen. You can even have a food truck attached to your building to get the required sales.  We have licensed a wine shop and their kitchen was a 4 by 8 foot space! They had a dishwashing area and a food prep area and they were able to provide high enough receipts to keep their alcohol license. Bottom line: you don’t need to be concerned with installing a professional or commercial kitchen.

One final note about alcohol sales requirements: Mixed Beverage licensees need to meet a ratio and you can figure out your ratio by using our free, online ratio calculator.

Finally, a great way to learn more about serving alcohol, compliantly, is to take our online training, at www.ToastVA.com. Our training is very comprehensive and covers DUI’s, ID’ing, how to apply for an alcohol license, how to properly manage a license location and how to do your MBAR’s –  in fact, it even explains that if you receive a violation and take the online training, you can reduce fines by 50%. This seller/server training is appropriate for anyone managing or serving – in fact, we recommend that you re-certify, annually. The cost of our training is only $29.95 and is available, immediately, self-paced and online. All employees should re-take the training, annually. It will save you so much stress and money – the average fine for the first-time violation is a $2,500 fine! If you are just starting out, with your business plan, take a moment and figure out where you need to invest – education is huge and is a great investment. Our training is VA ABC Authority certified. If you hire someone and they don’t take the training and they end up costing you a $2,500 fine, it would have been so much better to just pay the $29.95 in our training course!

Please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for the most common discussions and mistakes relating to Alcohol Licensing in the state of Virginia. We welcome the call to walk through this with you, over the phone, if you are still confused, but this is the most common hold up in VA ABC applications. Let’s talk: 800-785-0161

*Disclaimer: This article and its contents represent the opinions of the author only and is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice. ABC Consulting is a private consulting firm, in way do we represent the VA ABC Authority. You should not act upon any such information without seeking qualified professional advice based upon your situation.

NOTES: Hookah bars are commercial establishments where people gather to smoke flavored tobacco from a hookah pipe. Other names for a hookah bar includes hookah lounge, hookah café, hookah den, and shisha bar. Check with your landlord, zoning and health department to ensure you can offer alcohol and food in your establishment. I am Crystal Stump, Founder and CEO of ABC Consulting and former VA ABC Special Agent from the VA Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority.

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