Over a week after it became legal for Virginia restaurants to advertise their happy hour drink specials, local spots have had a range of responses to the loosened restrictions.
Before July 1, licensees could advertise the fact that they had a happy hour, but they couldn’t share the specific drink prices.
Guidelines from the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority states that happy hour advertisements can now include prices, the time span of the happy hour, types of drinks offered and “creative terms” like “Thirsty Thursday.”
While the state has opened the door for new kinds of ads, there are still some restrictions — licensees can’t hold happy hours between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. and specials “may not promote over-consumption or underage drinking,” the ABC states.
Anna Harman, a service manager at Quaker Steak and Lube on the Virginia side of State Street in downtown Bristol, said she doesn’t think the new law has led to any major changes in how happy hour and drink specials are advertised.
Quaker Steak and Lube has a social media presence, but she said it mostly advertises deals with a chalkboard outside the restaurant and information inside, like a list of happy hour specials on table tops.
“It gives you something to talk about with your customers,” Harman said.
At Mellow Mushroom off Lee Highway in Bristol, Virginia, Manager Heather Gosnell said she thinks the new regulations will help business. New forms of advertising for beer specials could bring more people in that might also be inclined to grab a bite to eat, she said.
“It’s a win-win because we’re discounting stuff but … we’re going to sell more food,” she said.
She said she anticipates the pizzeria will start advertising more drink specials on social media.
In Abingdon, Leslie Carter, a manager at JJ’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, said the restaurant offers happy hour throughout the week, and it also tends to advertise on tables and spaces within the restaurant.
JJ’s has an active Facebook page where they post food specials, and Carter said more may be done to market happy hours online. But there hasn’t been too much discussion about any big advertising changes, she added.
Last year, a restaurant owner in Northern Virginia filed a lawsuit against the Virginia ABC challenging the previous happy hour rules on First Amendment grounds. That lawsuit was dismissed earlier this year after the General Assembly passed legislation to repeal the tight restrictions and Gov. Ralph Northam signed off on the new law.