Spirited response to ABC changes in happy hour advertising

Posted at 10:46 PM, Nov 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-05 00:08:09-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--Restaurants and bars in Virginia will soon be able to advertise happy hours outside of their business, thanks to some upcoming changes to the Virginia Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control’s regulations.

ABC’s Chief Operating Officer Curtis Coleburn said Governor Bob McDonnell is expected to approve a change in happy hour advertising laws this fall.

Not too long ago restaurants were completely prohibited from promoting happy hour outside of the storefront. In late 2009, the ABC board approved the posting of a 17" by 22" sign in the window of a restaurant. This action symbolized forward movement to many, but more was wanted.

“There was a lot of gray area because when these laws were written in the 30s, there was no such thing as social media and T.V.” said Jack Crocker, who owns several restaurants in Richmond.

After a lengthy review, ABC decided to amend its regulations to allow happy hour ads in other places.

Use of social media currently falls under ABC regulation as electronic media.

Electronic media is defined by the ABC as, "any system involving the transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, television, electromagnetic, photo-electronic, or photo-optical system, including, but not limited to, radio, television, electronic mail, and the Internet."

There were some grey areas and confusion, according to restaurant owners.

“This was an opportunity for ABC to clean that up and give us direction,” said Crocker.

Under the amended regulations, restaurants and bars will be allowed to place happy hour advertisements on websites, in emails and on social media sites.

Still, those advertisements will not include specifics about what specials they are offering because Coleburn says restaurant owners did not want to get into a price war over happy hour specials.

Coleburn said once the Governor approves the change it will be another 30 days before it takes effect.