A bill making its way through the Virigina General Assembly would create a new, limited liquor license for retail cigar shops, though with some very notable restrictions and emphasis on the word limited.

An amended version of H.B. 2301 recently received the approval of the House Committee on General Laws by a 20-1 vote. As it is currently written, the bill would create a new limited liquor license that would allow—or limit, depending on your viewpoint—cigar shops to hold up to 18 sampling events per year, where wine, beer or mixed beverages could be served to any “bona fide” customer for consumption on the premises. It would also limit any particular individual to no more than two five-ounce glasses of wine, two 12-ounce glasses of beer, or two glasses of mixed beverages that contain no more than two ounces of spirits. Additionally it would also prohibit selling such beverages to customers, and events would be restricted to the premises where the cigar shop regularly operates, meaning it couldn’t be taken to an off-site event.

It also creates a definition for a retail shop, calling it:

  • any bona fide retail store that caters to patrons who purchase and smoke premium cigars;
  • annually receives at least 60 percent of its gross revenue from the sale of premium tobacco products, to include at least $200,000 and 40 percent or more of its gross revenue, whichever is greater, from the sale of premium cigars;
  • has on the premises at least one display humidor that stocks no less than 5,000 premium cigars; and
  • is open to the public on a regular basis.

It goes on to add that such a shop shall be a permanent structure where “stock is displayed and offered for sale” and that has the facilities to properly secure any stock of alcoholic beverages.

Additionally, it defines “premium cigars” as any handmade cigar valued at $2 or more at retail, and “premium tobacco products” as cigars, pipes, pipe tobacco, humidors and other accessories for cigars and pipes. Notably, it does not include cigarettes.

The bill received its first reading on the House floor on Monday and is awaiting further action.

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Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and previously the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for Major League Baseball, plus I'm a voice over artist. Prior to joining halfwheel, I covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.