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State’s ABCA says it will honor the legislature’s intent on PODA

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown’s PODA saga continues. 

It’s enough to drive a man to drink. 

In an order dated April 25 — last Thursday — West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration Commissioner Fredric Wooton said the ABCA will honor the intent of the legislature, not the ABCA’s interpretation of the law it just passed.  

In other words, according to Morgantown attorney Ryan P. Simonton, “any bar, restaurant, or other place where beer, wine, or liquor can be consumed on premises” can participate in a PODA, or private outdoor designated area. 

A PODA is a defined district in which participating businesses can sell beverages containing alcohol to customers who can carry those beverages in identifiable cups to other locations within the district. 

The law was initially introduced in 2022, spurred primarily by Morgantown City Council member Danielle Trumble working with Simonton and Delegate John Williams. 

A year later, during the 2023 session, legislators passed the bill into law. 

Upon passage, however, it said only businesses able to sell liquor could participate. 

At Morgantown’s request, the legislature amended the law in its latest session to allow breweries and beer/wine bars to participate, or so it thought.

The ABCA wasn’t moved. 

It said it would only provide PODA permission to businesses capable of selling liquor. 

It’s now reversed field on that decision. 

“In conversations with myself and WVABCA staff, the bill drafters and WVABCA staff, legislators, and the administration, the intent of the statute was to include all Class A licenses as qualified permit holders,” the ABCA explained 

Morgantown’s PODA opens on May 15. 

The designated area will be comprised of the city’s downtown and Wharf districts between the hours of 4-10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  

Businesses looking to participate starting May 15 must apply to the city before Wednesday morning’s inaugural meeting of the city’s PODA board.