In Richmond the restaurant industry is one of the main attractions.
Everyone loves eating and drinking. We also love our social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram, just to name a few. For years now everyone and their third cousins step-brother uses these platforms to share information with the public about what specials they might be offering.
The only thing is that here in Virginia we have ABC laws that seem to be quite different than many other states. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had conversations with friends at a party, on Facebook, Twitter, etc. about what’s legal and what’s not.
Restaurant owners don’t even know what is legal vs illegal. Ask around and you will get every interpretation, but ultimately it’s their interpretation and not the actual law.
Being part of a restaurant family and owning a web design company, I have always tried to stay on top of what’s legal vs illegal. Sometimes customers will want to do something they think is legal, but it’s not.
In February 2011 I helped Alix Bryan with an article about Happy Hour laws in Virginia called The ABC’s of Social Media and Happy Hour. It’s definitely worth a read if you didn’t back then and if you did you might want to refresh your memory.
So where are we today in regards to happy hour?
On October 2, 2012 ABC created a note on their Facebook page. This has some updates to the information contained in Alix’s article.
I was also part of a conversation on Facebook that mentioned a certain local restaurant advertising ½ off wine on a billboard. As usual people chimed in with their thoughts on if that was legal or illegal, but again mostly assumptions.
That prompted me to tweet @VirginiaABC which I have spoken to before. Here is that dialog:
@echadwilliams 1 minor change…1 small sign allowed 17″x22″ attached to exterior. More details here: ow.ly/f437w
@VirginiaABC so can you say the words happy hour on your website without referencing any product or price. Just that your offer it?
@echadwilliams sorry – no you may not use the words “happy hour” to advertise anywhere other than inside establishment or sm outside sign.
@VirginiaABC ok, 1 more question, is it legal to advertise discounted wine since it’s considered retail & can leave with it?
@echadwilliams do u mean in a restaurant situation where they can cork it & take it home?
@VirginiaABC yes, so say there is a “wine night” that is half of bottles. Can that be advertised?
@echadwilliams no, anything that is avail 4 consumption “on-premise” falls under the same rules for happy hour/drink specials.
I would say it’s pretty clear what the answer is. People are still doing whatever they want, whenever they want. I see Facebook messages all the time, Tweets from restaurants and their staff, images on Instagram of the board inside the restaurant that has all the specials and prices on it so clearly nothing is being enforced. This in my opinion is a good thing because it’s info we all want, right? It’s just the fact that technically all of this is illegal based on the ABC Regulations.
Let’s just hope they keep looking the other way, but it would make since if you aren’t going to enforce it to change the law so that it’s legal and restaurants aren’t risking fines if and when an agent suddenly decides to flex their muscle and impose fines.