Facing a lawsuit, lawmakers move on lifting happy hour restrictions

Facing a lawsuit, lawmakers move on lifting happy hour restrictions
Happy hours can’t happen after 9, restaurants can only call it "happy hour" or use the phrase "drink specials," prices can’t be advertised outside of the restaurant and two-for-one drink specials are illegal.

A lawsuit filed against the state by a Northern Virginia restaurateur could be the motivation the General Assembly needs to change laws that restrict happy hour advertising.

Chef Geoff Tracy, who operates locations of his Chef Geoff restaurant in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C., filed suit against the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority earlier this year over the law.

Virginia’s happy hour laws have changed in recent years, like in 2014 when restaurants were given permission to advertise happy hour on flyers, social media and sandwich boards outside of businesses.

But there are still some very specific strings attached.

Happy hours can’t happen after 9 p.m., restaurants can only call it “happy hour” or use the phrase “drink specials,” prices can’t be advertised outside of the restaurant and two-for-one drink specials are illegal, among other restrictions.

A bill from Del. John Bell, D-Chantilly, would loosen the rules about wording in advertisements and allow for “creative marketing techniques, provided that such techniques do not tend to induce overconsumption or to induce consumption by minors.”

The bill is ready for a vote from the full House.