Editor’s note: The original version of this story had a headline listing a number of the banned practices as also legal,(such as 2 for 1s, all you can drink specials, etc.) they are not.
Editor’s note: The original version of this story had a headline listing a number of the banned practices as also legal,(such as 2 for 1s, all you can drink specials, etc.) they are not. The headline has been changed to reflect this. We apologize for the misunderstanding. -BK
Beginning January 29, Virginia bars and restaurants will be able to legally advertise happy hour in all media forms, according to the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The proposed change has stemmed from “feedback from the public, alcohol industry representatives, restaurant owners and other key stakeholders,” says Kathleen Shaw, Virginia ABC Public Relations Specialist.
While the promotion of drink prices isn’t mentioned specifically, the changes in the law do not allow for the “promotion of specific happy hour drink specials.” The law does, however, allow “restaurants to promote the time span of their happy hour,” says Shaw.
What does this mean for Richmond bars and restaurants? Alison McClean, manager of the Camel, believes the change will boost business and allow for more straightforward advertising.
“It will be super helpful to be able to advertise on the Internet exactly what our specials are or the specific time,” said McClean. She explains that, due to the current restrictions on happy hour advertising, the Camel receives an influx of calls from patrons wondering about the specific hours of drink specials.
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control previously disallowed happy hour advertising in order to “prevent excessive alcohol consumption in restaurants,” says Shaw.
While McClean understands this concern, she views the promotion of happy hour as supplementary advertising. “Even with the change in laws, I don’t want [drinking] to be the only thing we focus on in terms of advertising,” says McClean. “I’d really like to promote [happy hour] as a side, as a bonus.”
Greg Darden, manager of Ipanema, holds a similar viewpoint. He says that while Ipanema promotes a food-first attitude, the ability to advertise drink special hours on social media will prove helpful. Darden explains that, because of the new law, the restaurant will no longer have to dance around advertising its specials. “Before, we’d post on the Twitter or Instagram and say something like, ‘Hey, we’re kind of doing something tonight, maybe…” so this will help with that.”
Here’s a full statement and list of the changes from The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control:
The regulation amendment will allow restaurants to say “happy hour” or “drink specials” and the hours when they are offering reduced price drinks anywhere they can legally advertise — newspaper, radio, TV, outdoor signs, as well as online. The regulation change has been approved by the administration, will be published on December 30, 2013 and become effective January 29, 2014.
3VAC5-50-160. Happy hour and related promotions; definitions; exceptions.
1. “Happy Hour.” A specified period of time during which alcoholic beverages are sold at prices reduced from the customary price established by a retail licensee.
2. “Drink.” Any beverage containing the amount of alcoholic beverages customarily served to a patron as a single serving by a retail licensee.
B. No retail licensee shall engage in any of the following practices:
1. Conducting a happy hour between 9 p.m. of each day and 2 a.m. of the following day;
2. Allowing a person to possess more than two drinks at any one time during a happy hour;
3. Increasing the volume of alcoholic beverages contained in a drink without increasing proportionately the customary or established retail price charged for such drink;
4. Selling two or more drinks for one price, such as “two for one” or “three for one”;
5. Selling pitchers of mixed beverages;
6. Giving away drinks;
7. Selling an unlimited number of drinks for one price, such as “all you can drink for $5.00”; or
8. Advertising happy hour in the media or on the exterior anywhere other than within the
interior of the licensed premises., except that a licensee may use the term “Happy Hour”
or “Drink Specials” and the time period within which alcoholic beverages are being sold at reduced prices in any otherwise lawful advertisement; or
9. Establishing a customary retail price for any drink at a markup over cost significantly less than that applied to other beverages of similar type, quality, or volume.
C. This regulation shall not apply to prearranged private parties, functions, or events, not open to the public, where the guests thereof are served in a room or rooms designated and used exclusively for private parties, functions or events.