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ABC Lifts the Ban on Happy Hour Advertisements

If you live in Virginia and/or work for a restaurant or bar, you may have heard the buzz that’s been going on since early January of 2019, thanks to Geoff Tracy, owner of Chef Geoff’s on New Mexico Avenue and co-owner of Chef Geoff’s Deluxe Hospitality. Geoff argued that it was against his First Amendment rights and that not being able to advertise these things were hurting his business.

After gaining traction, ABC officially stated that the ban on advertising happy hour would be lifted and that business could begin advertising happy hour on July 1, 2019. Before we get into the details of what that means, let’s talk about where the idea of happy hour even came from.

History of Happy Hour

Happy hour is defined as a specified period of time during which alcoholic beverages are sold at prices reduced from the customary price established by a retail licensee. The term itself dates back to the 19th century when it was used as naval slang.

At that time, a “happy hour” was an allotted period of time on a ship where sailors engaged in various forms of entertainment to relieve the monotonies of the seafaring life. Most of the time, this meant wrestling or boxing matches, but it still could include other athletic activities intending to boost morale. During the prohibition era, it was used as a euphemism for drinking sessions prior to eating out at restaurants or visiting places where the sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal.

These days, happy hour is used as a time for winding (or maybe wine-ding) down after work for a few hours either with colleagues or friends. It has become a staple in cities all over the country, which meant not being able to advertise for it was likely keeping businesses from getting more people in the door during those peak hours.

Nitty Gritty

According to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority’s website, as of July 1, 2019, the legislation will allow licensed establishments to do the following to advertise their happy hours:

  • Include prices.

  • Use creative terms, such as “Wine Down Wednesday” or “Thirsty Thursday.”

  • Promote the time span of their happy hour.

  • List specific drink types and brands.

  • Promote drink specials in advertisements and on flyers, posters, social media and their website (subject to other alcohol advertising laws and regulations).

  • The following restrictions will remain in place:

  • Happy hour may not be offered between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.

  • Happy hour specials may not promote over-consumption or underage drinking.

  • Advertising two-for-one and "bottomless" drink specials are illegal.

Progressive Happy Hour

In the spirit of the season, we feel like we should plug our own Progressive Happy Hour (now that we can)! Our happy hour starts at 4pm and runs until 8pm. Starting at 4pm, you can get select drinks for $4, with the price rising $1 per hour, until 8pm. We look forward to serving you up a cocktail soon!

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