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Happy Hour Ad Restrictions to Be Lifted Wednesday in Virginia

Virginia ABC offers specific examples of what's acceptable and what's not acceptable under new law.

Starting Wednesday, restrictions will be loosened on advertising happy hours in Virginia. Patch file photo
Starting Wednesday, restrictions will be loosened on advertising happy hours in Virginia. Patch file photo
Starting Wednesday, restaurants in Virginia may use the phrase "happy hour" and promote the time span of drink specials on flyers and posters, social media, their website, a sandwich board located on the sidewalk outside their business and in print and broadcast ads.

Read: Happy Hour Help Coming to Virginia Restaurants

Here are some specific examples from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to let you know what is considered acceptable promotion under the new regulation changes.

Acceptable Statements:
  • Happy hour from 4–7 p.m. daily
  • Join us for happy hour drink specials
  • We offer drink specials from 3–8 p.m. Monday–Friday
  • Offering the best happy hour in Chesapeake
  • Valentine’s Day package: shared appetizer, pasta entrée, and dessert plus a bottle of Virginia-made wine for $50 per couple (Food and alcoholic drink package pairings may be promoted if an exact amount of alcohol is specified)
  • Introducing our new drink, The Pilot, featuring Barcardi Limon rum. Only $7 (If The Pilot is always $7 (anytime on any day), the drink may be advertised with both the cost and alcoholic beverage included as long as no manufacturer or wholesaler money is involved in the retailer’s advertising)
  • 20 wings and pitcher of Bud Light for $15.99 from 5–7 p.m. (If the beer is regular menu price and the ad is not being paid for by a manufacturer or distributer, discounted food may be advertised)
Unacceptable Statements:
  • Enjoy discounted margaritas from 4–7 p.m. The word discounted may not be used; the only approved phrases are “happy hour” and “drink specials.” Also, the drink type may not be listed (margaritas).
  • Beer and wine specials from 5–9 p.m. daily (Drink types may not be listed, such as beer and wine.)
  • $2 off highballs (Drink types may not be listed (highballs). Also, specific discount amounts may not be promoted.)
  • Thirsty Thursday: beer specials from 4–8 p.m. Drink types may not be listed (beer). (In addition, “Thirsty Thursdays” or “Wet Wednesdays” or any other alcoholic beverage-related phrase cannot be promoted with the time frame. But, if it said only “Thirsty Thursday drink specials,” that would be permitted because “Thirsty Thursdays” would not be referring to a specific time during which alcoholic drinks are discounted.)
  • 2-for-1 rail drinks during happy hour (2-for-1 drink specials are illegal anytime and any place)
  • Happy hour 6–10 p.m. daily (All happy hours and discounted drink offerings must end by 9 p.m.)
  • New Year’s Eve package: One night at a hotel, dinner and brunch for two, and unlimited champagne for $175 (Licensees may not offer unlimited alcoholic beverages)

Reminder: All of these examples are approved for use INSIDE the restaurant EXCEPT “2-for-1 rail drinks during happy hour” and “Happy hour 6–10 p.m. daily” because those are illegal under other alcohol regulations unrelated to the recent happy hour promotion changes.

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