Bar owners hope ‘happy hour law’ will attract new customers

Va. ‘happy hour law’ goes into effect

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Restaurants and bars are officially able to promote happy hour specials thanks to a new law that went into effect July 1.

In February, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill granting business owners more freedom when it comes to advertising happy hour.

“We’re hoping to at least see a return to what the levels were a few years ago,” F.W. Sullivan’s owner Jake Crocker said.

Crocker believes happy hour crowds shifted to the breweries because of new brewery laws that went into effect several years ago.

“They were able to serve pints," he said. “Tasting rooms became big events.”

Now, bars like Sullivan’s and Lady Nawlins on West Main Street are focused on drawing those customers back in.

"It puts us at a more level playing field, so we are able to be creative and promote what we're doing during happy hour," Crocker said.

Writing happy hour prices on a large chalkboard in the past would have landed the bar a fine by Virginia ABC agents. Thanks to the General Assembly, you’re now able to see your local bar’s deals before you even sit down.

"So now, I push that button, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and we’re promoting the deals,” Crocker said. “[We’re] cutting some new radio spots and we'll have it all in the next couple of days."

A new happy hour law goes into effect July 1, allowing businesses to display, promote beverage deals (Source: NBC12)
A new happy hour law goes into effect July 1, allowing businesses to display, promote beverage deals (Source: NBC12) (Source: NBC12)

The hope is to attract more customers in new ways.

“People want to be where they want to be,” Crocker said. “Atmosphere and personalities. We do have different food, which we’re very proud of, and our specialty cocktails are a bit unique.”

However, the new law does come with rules for advertising, making sure it doesn't promote over-consumption and underage drinking.

“You know, nickel drafts or penny shots, or ridiculous stuff like that, which is over-consumption and dangerous,” Crocker said. “We’re definitely not for that.”

For Sullivan’s, Crocker plans to add more food deals to prevent over-consumption. While he is pleased with the General Assembly’s efforts for the new law, he wants more change in the future such as dropping the food-to-alcohol ratio to make it more comparable to other states.

“The food-to-alcohol ratio is 45 percent food just to be able to sell liquor,” Crocker said. “Twenty-five to 30 percent is usually a safe ground."

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