On Monday, the State of Virginia finally scrapped a ridiculous restriction that prevented bars and restaurants from publicly posting their happy hour deals. In January, Virginia’s legislature passed a bill striking down the restrictive policy, and Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) signed the bill in February.
According to the old restriction, restaurants could not post their happy hour prices or puns in advertising. While this policy has been struck down, other restrictive rules, such as the ban on two-for-one drink specials, happy hours that last pass 9 p.m., and the prohibition on providing “free drinks” remain. (Bars consistently charge negligible prices, such as a penny or a nickel, for mimosas and cocktails during promotional periods.)
This success for truth in advertising came after Chef Geoff Tracy, who owns several restaurants including Chef Geoff’s Tysons Corner, filed a lawsuit claiming the restrictions violated his free speech rights and hurt his business.
“Now I can actually have some fun in advertising my happy hours, and I can tell people the price of happy-hour pinot before they get to my restaurant,” Tracy said in a statement in January.
The Pacific Legal Foundation represented Tracy pro bono in the lawsuit, which was dropped after the bill had passed.
“For the last year, the attorney general’s office has tried to bully me into giving up my fight to speak to my customers,” Tracy said. “Everyone knew that the restrictions were unnecessary. The Virginia ABC even testified in support of this legislation! So ultimately they were speaking out of both sides of their mouth and wasting a lot of taxpayer money.”
“The legislation vindicates Chef Geoff’s right to speak truthfully and creatively to Virginia consumers and to empower them with the information they need to make wise economic choices,” Anastasia Boden, Tracy’s attorney with Pacific Legal, said in a statement.
“The government shouldn’t be able to censor truthful, non-misleading speech simply because it thinks censorship is good for you. It can’t hide information from the public merely because it’s afraid of what you might do with it. The right to share that information is protected by the First Amendment,” she added.
Pacific Legal Foundation will celebrate this victory with a happy hour on July 18. The event is fittingly entitled, “Don’t Tread on Happy Hour.”
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.