VRLTA represents you – restaurant owners, managers, and employees – when it comes to legislative issues that affect the restaurant industry as a whole. We support our members’ interests through legislative representation with the goal of protecting and maintaining Virginia’s high tourism season, VA ABC legislation and regulations, tourism funding, and taxation and workforce issues.
This support also includes lobbying updates at the local, state, and federal levels as well as research from our national partners – the National Restaurant Association and the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
Check back often to read the latest information.
U.S. Department of Labor Announces Changes to Overtime Regulations
In late September, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced it had completed its update of our nation’s federal overtime regulations and that the final regulation will be released imminently. Some of the core provisions include:
- Salary threshold for administrative, executive, and professional employees (the “white collar” exemptions) will now be $684/week, or $35,568/year. This will replace the current threshold of $455/week or $23,660/year (in place since 2004)
- The Highly Compensated Employee threshold will go from $100,000 (in place since 2004) to $107,432.
- There are NO changes to the duties test.
- There are NO automatic updates.
- Employers may use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) that are paid at least annually to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary level, in recognition of evolving pay practices.
- The final regulation will be effective January 1, 2020. This will give employers slightly more than 3 months to budget and plan accordingly.
Mark your calendars for VRLTA’s 2020 General Assembly Reception and Day on the Hill
VRLTA is pleased to announce that the 2020 General Assembly Reception and Day on the Hill will be taking place January 29-30th. With all the legislative issues we have seen bubbling up at the federal, state, and local levels, it’s critical that the hospitality and tourism industry have a showing of force for next year’s 2020 General Assembly Reception and Day on the Hill. During this past year, we saw efforts to impose additional burdensome mandates onto employers—these requirements would hurt many restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Thanks in large part to VRLTA, and our members and their advocacy, we were highly successful in defeating proposals that would be onerous to our industry and advancing those which benefit our hospitality and tourism.
Laws that were ratified during the 2019 session of the Virginia General Assembly are scheduled to take effect on July 1st.
VRLTA has put together a list of several measures that were enacted that may affect your business. Below you will find a list of those relevant to the restaurant industry.
Alcoholic Beverage Control and Happy Hour Advertising ( HB2073 and SB1726): Authorizes retail on-premises licensees to advertise happy hours and prices through the use of creative marketing techniques, so long as the advertisements don’t induce overconsumption or underage drinking.
Alcoholic Beverage Control and Exceptions for Mixed Beverage Referendums ( HB1905): Allows the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority to issue mixed beverage licenses to a greater number of establishments in dry jurisdictions.
Alcoholic Beverage Control and Local Special Events License ( SB1171): Creates a local special events license, which allows a locality, business improvement district, or nonprofit organization to permit the consumption of alcoholic beverages within the area designated for a special event by the Virginia ABC Authority Board, so long as the alcoholic beverages are purchased from a permanent retail on-premises licensee located within the designated area. The licensees selling alcoholic beverages must distribute it in disposable containers that clearly display the selling licensee’s name or logo. Local special events licensees are limited to 12 events per year and provides that the area designated for the special event may include sidewalks and the premises of businesses not licensed to sell alcoholic beverages, upon approval of such businesses.
Local License Tax Exception for Food Trucks ( SB1425): Allows new food truck owners to only pay the license tax in the locality where the food truck is registered, and would exempt it from paying the license tax in any other jurisdiction in which it would operate. The exemption would apply for two years, and after that period the food truck would be required to pay the license tax in any jurisdiction where it engages in business. It allows a food truck operator to exempt up to three mobile food units from the license tax in other localities.
Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Fund ( HB2718 and SB1716): Creates an Interstate 81 committee, that is delegated the authority to develop and update a program related to I-81 corridor safety and improvements, and creates the I-81 Corridor Improvement Fund. Revenues for the fund would be provided through the creation of a new registration fee for non-passenger trucks, a diesel tax, a regional gas tax, and a roads tax.
ABC License Reform
The Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Authority has been conducting a review of the existing licensing system pursuant to a request from the General Assembly. The goal is to consolidate the number of licenses available, explore the creation of a marketplace license, analyze the fees collected, and determine whether to restructure to align fees with resources necessary to monitor and enforce licenses. The Virginia ABC has been consulting with relevant stakeholders in creating a recommended change to the current system and created a draft proposal. The VRLTA has been active and engaged in promoting and protecting the hospitality industry’s interests in this regulatory process.
Another hectic, short Virginia General Assembly session has adjourned.
During the 2019 legislative session in Richmond, the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging, and Travel Association and our members were successful in defeating many measures that would adversely affect restaurants, lodging, and tourism in the Commonwealth. Here is a brief update on some of the more pressing proposals that the industry faced this year.
Numerous proposals to establish new burdensome labor requirements for employers were introduced. A handful of them, such as HB2120, and SB1639 would have created a paid family and medical leave program in the state that would be funded through payroll taxes on both employees and employers. HB2261 took a different approach by mandating employers provide paid family and medical leave to staff. In addition, HB2130 was an attempt to require employees be provided paid time off to vote.
Minimum wage and tipped wage legislation also garnered significant attention this year. Several bills—HB1850, HB2157, SB1017, and SB1200—sought to increase the minimum wage to a rate of either $10.10 or $15 per hour. One legislator introduced HB2631 in an attempt to allow localities in Virginia to adopt any minimum wage increase above the current Virginia threshold of $7.25 per hour.
Legislation specifically targeting the tipped wage was considered as well. HB1757 sought to change tipped employee classification, and HB2195 would have increased the tipped wage from $2.13 per hour to $6 per hour. All of these bills addressing employer mandates were defeated in committee; however, SB1200 which would have imposed a $15 minimum wage requirement on businesses did advance to the Senate floor where it failed by a single vote.
Several measures that sought to create additional penalties for the nonpayment of wages were introduced. HB1687 and HB2524 would have incentivized trial lawyers to pursue litigation against employers for alleged failure to pay an employee’s wages. The expansion of investigations regarding nonpayment of wages was seen in HB2349. Under the proposal, if an employee initiated an investigation against an employer it would require that the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry to examine all other employees at the business—even if the investigation was requested in bad faith. There was an attempt to prohibit retaliatory actions by employers against employees who launch investigations for nonpayment of wages through HB2363, and like the other bills dealing with this issue the legislation was defeated in committee.
The most controversial and burdensome bill generated significant media attention, but didn’t receive a vote concerned Virginia’s right to work law. HB1806 sought to repeal the long-standing law that ensures employees of Virginia businesses are not required to join a labor union as a condition of employment.
Plastic Bags and Straws
Bills that would impact the use of plastic products were introduced in the House and Senate. A common theme among the proposals—HB1669, HB2095, SB1070, and SB1116—is the authorization of local governments to enact taxes on plastic bags, but HB2095 went even further. It would have allowed for the local prohibition of not only plastic bags, but other plastic products such as plastic straws. All these bills were defeated in committee.
In response to a highly publicized issue last year dealing with the Potomac Mills Mall highway sign being partially blown over, legislation was introduced. SB1535 would have imposed an additional engineering requirement on signs located adjacent to Interstate Highways. It required an inspection be conducted every five years and allowed the Virginia Department of Transportation to remove the signage without just compensation to the owner. This bill advanced through the State Senate, but was defeated in the subcommittee #1 of the House General Laws Committee.
Legislation that created an unequal application of licensing taxes between restaurants and food trucks has been sent to the Governor for his review. The bill, SB1425 would require new food truck owners to only pay the license tax in the locality where the food truck is registered, but would exempt it from paying license tax in any other jurisdiction in which it would operate. The exemption would apply for two years, after which the food truck would be required to pay the license tax in any jurisdiction where it engages in business. Moreover, this measure would allow a food truck operator to exempt up to three food trucks from the license tax in other localities. The proposal would put new brick and mortar restaurants at a competitive disadvantage to new food trucks.
A major expansion of the sale of mixed beverages in “dry” counties. HB1905, HB2634, and SB1110 all scaled back restrictions on the sale of alcohol in dry jurisdictions and allow for increased sale of mixed beverages. These bills were passed by both chambers and have been signed into law.
Legislators took another swipe this year at attempting to change the Mixed Beverage Annual Review ratio in SB1242, but the adjustments sought by the bill’s sponsor caused significant opposition from the hospitality industry which ultimately led to the measure’s defeat.
Virginia’s happy hour laws also saw big changes this legislative session. Two companion bills—HB2367 and SB1726—would expand a restaurant’s ability to promote happy hours by permitting restaurants to advertise the prices of featured alcoholic beverages and use creative marketing techniques. The proposals were passed by both chambers and have been signed into law by the Governor.