ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Gov. Ralph Northam has announced that starting Monday, Virginia will allow restaurants, breweries, and other foodservice businesses to sell alcohol until midnight — a two hour jump from the current 10 p.m. cutoff.
Starting March 1, the attendance capacity at some entertainment venues will be expanded and alcohol sales will be allowed to go two hours later into the night.
It's welcome news for Scott Shaw.
He helps lead Alexandria Restaurant Partners, a company that runs 7 Virginia eateries.
COVID-19 and the ensuing restrictions tore a hole in their revenue.
One restaurant near the King Street metro station in Alexandria saw a "50%" drop in revenue, Shaw said. Other restaurants and bars that are closer to the Alexandria waterfront lost about 20%.
"What this change means is that we can kind of serve guests in the dining room a bit later," said Shaw. "It's a bit hard to seat somebody at 9:30 and take away their glass of wine at 10 p.m."
Those extra two hours could be a boost to bottom lines.
"Probably another 10% to 15% of the business," estimated Shaw.
Masks and social distancing are still required by Northam's new order.
He cited falling COVID-19 case numbers and increasing vaccinations as reasons for the decision to ease some other restrictions.
Shaw's Ada on the River restaurant in Alexandria has seen some of that firsthand.
"We see people coming in to sort of celebrating getting that second vaccine shot, and we're a little bit envious," joked Shaw. "But we're happy for them. And we're happy for ourselves."
The loosening restrictions have Shaw cautiously optimistic that sometime soon the new normal might start looking a little more like the old normal.
"We see light at the end of the tunnel," he said.