Social media promotion of ABC Black Friday deals irks restaurant owners

Posted at 10:15 AM, Nov 13, 2013

1150315_10151761405368733_1089005103_nRICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – The Virginia ABC announced its Black Friday deal on liquor. The day after Thanksgiving, all ABC stores will knock 10 percent off alcohol purchases of $50 or more.

“This is a unique opportunity for our retail customers to purchase quality items at reduced prices,” ABC Chairman J. Neal Insley said in a statement. “For individuals interested in trading up to more premium brands for themselves or as gifts, the discount will help offset the higher cost.”

ABC store hours will vary with many opening early, according to the state.

“No product will be excluded from the 10 percent discount. Shoppers spending the minimum $50 will receive the discount on everything from miniatures, which make great stocking stuffers, to top-shelf specialty items,” according to the ABC.

“ABC encourages Virginians to drink responsibly. As the holiday season approaches, we should be especially mindful of this,” Insley added.

When the ABC Stores began advertising its Black Friday specials for the third straight year online via its website and Twitter, pub owners like Terry O'Neill became perplexed.  O'Neill, who owns Penny Lane Pub, can talk about his Happy Hour specials inside, but he can't yet advertise them online, on the business phone, or via social media.

"It's like two laws-one for them and one for us," O'Neil said.

CBS 6 wanted to know if the ABC is breaking the very rules they set for other food and beverage establishments.

According to spokeswoman Betty Gettings, ABC stores are not breaking any laws because they are considered off premise sites.

Last year an ABC spokesperson told CBS 6 spokesperson sent CBS 6 News the following statement after our original report aired:

“ABC stores are off-premises retailers and are not regulated by the same rules as are on-premises retailers such as restaurants.  Off-premises retailers, such as grocery stores, wine shops and ABC, can advertise specials and/or reduced prices on beverage alcohol. On-premises retailers such as restaurants, that serve alcohol for consumption on their premises, are restricted from advertising happy hours and/or specials."

Gettings said last year $5.9 million dollars in revenue was generated by ABC's Black Friday Special. She also hinted that advertising laws regarding bars and restaurants could soon be changing. Presently, bars can only advertise their specials on a 17 x 22 inch sign.

Currently the state is considering allowing bars to advertise its happy hour specials more freely. ABC’s Chief Operating Officer Curtis Coleburn previously told CBS 6 that Governor Bob McDonnell is expected to approve a change in happy hour advertising laws this fall.

The governors office told CBS 6 today that McDonnell has not decided whether or not he would sign the measure.