Effective July 1, restaurants in Virginia will be able to advertise their happy hour specials legally.
That means restaurants that offer $5 margaritas from 4 to 7 p.m., or $2 beers from noon to 8 p.m. every day, or $3 wine on Wednesdays can actually tell people about it—on their websites, on social media, in a sign in the window or in a paid advertisement.
The new rules are thanks to the happy hour legislation approved by the Virginia General Assembly this year. The Senate and the House of Delegates passed proposals to expand restaurants’ ability to advertise happy hours and the price of featured alcoholic beverages.
“This change will allow mixed-beverage licensees to be more creative and transparent in their happy hour advertising, while still recognizing limitations which encourage responsible service and consumption,” said Travis Hill, CEO of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority.
Until now, under Virginia law, restaurants couldn’t share specifics of their happy hour specials ($2 beers and $3 glasses of wine, for example) outside of their restaurants, including on their websites, on social media and in any advertisements.
Legislation that went into effect in 2014 loosened some of the earlier advertising restrictions, allowing restaurants to say they had happy hour specials, but it continued to impose restrictions on sharing specifics.
The bills that passed this year were introduced on behalf of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, in part as a result of a lawsuit filed by a Virginia restaurateur last year.
Geoff Tracy, owner of Chef Geoff’s in Northern Virginia, filed suit against the Virginia ABC last year, arguing that rules that bar him from advertising drink specials restrict his free-speech rights and hurt his business.
The bills passed overwhelmingly.