Dogs will soon be legal inside Virginia wineries and breweries as long as they're not around food production.
Legislation proposed by Del. John Bell (D-87th) of Loudoun that allows dogs at wineries, breweries and distilleries has passed both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly. The Senate unanimously approved the measure Friday, while the House of Delegates passed the bill 97-2 in January.
The legislation states "a dog may be allowed inside or on the premises of, except in any area used for the manufacture of food products, a distillery, a winery or farm winery or a brewery or farm brewery."
Bell said he drew up the legislation after winery owners told him their business was suffering in recent years following state regulators' crackdown on dogs joining in on the winery fun.
The second-term delegate said some proprietors told him they were losing up to 25 percent of their business due to the regulation that essentially forbid dogs anywhere inside a winery or brewery.
Bell's legislation gives wineries the option to allow dogs in tasting rooms -- it doesn't dictate canines must be allowed in all tasting rooms.
Jennifer Breaux, a manager at Breaux Vineyards in western Loudoun County, welcomed the bill's passage.
"It's definitely a relief. We miss seeing dogs in the tasting room," Breaux told the Times-Mirror. "We'll have a lot of happy customers."
Breaux hosts several dog-related festivals a year, and being able to have the dogs come in and out with their owners -- rather than an owner possibly leaving the dog outside unattended -- should make things smoother, she said.
Not all winery owners will welcome four-legged friends indoors, however.
Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars in Leesburg said he plans to still forbid dogs in his tasting room.
Fabbioli, a member of the Virginia Wine Board, said he just doesn't believe dogs belong in crowded wineries where either wine is being produced, food is being produced or both.
Bell's legislation "won't change our business," Fabbioli said, but he added that the new measure provides some clarity to what had become a confusing issue in the industry.
The new law is expected to go into effect July 1.
Virginia has more than 230 wineries, approximately 45 of which are in Loudoun County.