Do alcohol and shopping mix?
More shoppers in Virginia will be able to drink alcohol beverages openly at shopping centers if a recently-introduced law is passed.
Currently, four shopping developments have open-container access licensees in Virginia: Fairfax Corner, Loudoun Station, the Village at Leesburg, all in Northern Virginia, and 5th Street Station in Charlottesville. The license lets shoppers purchase alcohol in a restaurant or bar and take it outside to enjoy while they walk around and shop.
Easily-identifiable to-go cups from a restaurant or bar prove shoppers didn’t just bring the alcohol from home.
“It’s very much to get people away from their computers and shopping online and out into the community, into their neighborhoods,” Senator Barbara Favola, the lead sponsor of the bill, told Fox 5 in Washington D.C. “Retailers believe they really have to create a destination environment.”
Currently, only mixed-use developments of at least 25 acres in size can apply for an open-container access license from Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) bureau. The bill would trim that requirement to 10 acres or more.
“ABC was just saying that more and more communities are asking about this, and that 25 acres is a bit of a heavy lift for some of our urban areas,” Ms. Favola told Washington Business Journal.
Developments would still need to have at least 100,000-square-feet of retail space and include “national specialty chain stores” and a mix of dining, entertainment, office, residential or hotel establishments.
Open-container access licensees at shopping centers, particularly lifestyle ones supporting outside entertainment venues, have become more common in recent years as a traffic driver.
In November, Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix became the first shopping center in Arizona to allow such open-alcohol consumption. David Larcher, president at Vestar, the owner of Desert Ridge Marketplace, said in a statement, “You can get a drink at a movie theater and walk around resorts and golf courses with a cocktail, so why not retail centers?”
Opponents to open-container districts cite risks in family-friendly environments and challenges controlling responsible consumption including drinking and driving.
- Virginia lawmaker looks to expand open-container law for shopping centers – Washington Business Journal
- New open container bill may allow drinking while shopping at retail stores in Virginia – WJLA
- Virginia lawmaker hopes expanding open-container access could rejuvenate brick-and-mortar retail – Fox 5
- Supermarkets on Tap – RetailWire
- Property Developers Push for Open Drinking on City Streets – The Wall Street Journal
- Open Container Allowed At Outlet Shoppes of Atlanta – Patch
- Larcher: Redefining the Arizona & American shopping center – Vestar
- How a Phoenix mall operator made it legal to openly carry booze at Arizona shopping centers – Phoenix Business Journal
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are there more pros than cons in expanding open-container drinking at shopping centers? If successful, should access be expanded to enclosed malls and other retail channels with some restrictions?