By Hope J. Gibbs
On Tuesday night Delegate Adam Ebbin (D-49) and Shana McKillop, managing partner of La Tasca Old Town, gathered with friends and supporters in celebration of the legalization of sangria. Yes, sangria. And if you didn’t know that it was against the law to serve this Spanish concoction in Virginia restaurants, you aren’t alone. The law banning sangria dates back 74 years.
The obscure law was passed in 1934, just after the national prohibition of alcohol was repealed. It forbade restaurants and bars in Virginia from mixing beer or wine with spirits. This included the serving of sangria, a fruity mix of red wine and brandy, signature drink for most Spanish restaurants. Bartenders caught serving the illegal mixture could serve up to a year in jail if convicted.
The Virginia ban on sangria came to light after La Tasca, a tapas restaurant at 607 King Street, was cited for violating the law and fined $2,000.
“Our situation was we had five restaurants operating in the area, and we had been in Virginia for three years prior to opening our Old Town location. For those three years, we had been serving sangria made with the original recipe at our Clarendon location,” said McKillop. “We were never given any warning or violations during that time. Then suddenly a year and six months and 25 days ago we were given a violation. I felt that it was in the best interest for our company to do the right thing and take the matter into our own hands. So we quit serving sangria until we could make it legal to do so. With the help of Adam Ebbin, we now have a law in place so that we can do what we do best—serve great food and authentic Spanish sangria.”
So how would any restaurant have known that their mixture of sangria being served was illegal?
“They get fined—thousands of dollars,” said Ebbin. “We have some fairly intricate ABC laws, and I think responsible businesses like La Tasca are very much aware of the laws surrounding who can be served and who cannot be served, but this is the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition, and a review of antiquated laws is needed.”
Ebbin said that there were many local Virginia restaurants unaware of the obscure sangria law. “There are actually two parts to this issue. First, is the mixing of the wine and alcohol, but also, it was prohibited to remove the alcohol from a container and add other things, like is done in the making of sangria. Additionally, to add triple sec or brandy into wine or beer was illegal. It just shows you some of the peculiarities and intricacies of the law.”
With Ebbin’s help and introduction of HB1269, La Tasca and other Virginia restaurants can now serve sangria and not be in violation of an antiquated law.
“We try to solve big issues like transportation which doesn’t always work out, so to have even a small victory that helps local businesses is great,” said Ebbin. “Virginia has consistently been rated the number one state for business, and we have a lot of out of state businesses moving in, so we want to do everything we can to keep Virginia the number one state.”
La Tasca is a careful blend of everything about Spain – warm décor, authentic cuisine and friendly hospitality. All these combine to create a unique and genuine atmosphere. La Tasca strives to keep the Spanish culture and passion alive in its restaurants; to be local within its community while bringing to it, a taste of Spain. La Tasca is a Spanish restaurant with a combination of more than 45 Tapas dishes, delicious menu specials, 6 different paellas, 11 sangria blends, Spanish wines and beers.
La Tasca has five locations in the United States; one in Baltimore and four in the Washington metro area. For more information, visit www.latascausa.com.