July 5, 2019 Print

Mingling with your coworkers while cracking open a cold one may be the best way to unwind after the grueling work day—especially if you notice an ad for a cheap afternoon special. Want a frosty mug for only three dollars? Happy hour. Four dollar margarita? Happy hour!

Unless, of course, you happen to live in Virginia. 

These enticing deals pop up in restaurants from D.C. down to Danville, but it’s always been illegal to advertise them. But Pacific Legal Foundation, an Atlas Network partner, decided to take on the law—and they won. 

“Although happy hour alcohol discounts are entirely legal, advertising the price of those discounts was forbidden,” says Thomas Berry, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation.  Berry explained that Virginia law specified that “happy hour” advertising, such as telling potential patrons that a local watering hold offered a Four Dollar Frosé for happy hour, was in violation of state law. Any slogan to advertise happy hour other than “happy hour” or “drink specials,” or an innocuous catch-phrase such as “Winedown Wednesdays” would have run afoul of the law.

With PLF’s help, this restriction on the advertisement of happy hour prices and creative slogans came to an end this past February as the Virginia legislature repealed bans on both. For the past year, PLF has been challenging these laws, pointing out that the law prevented entrepreneurs from speaking openly about their business and in turn, violated their First Amendment Rights.

“It is remarkable that a law that stubbornly remained on the books for decades was repealed with little controversy,” said Berry, noting that the law was repealed by a 40-0 vote in the Virginia State Senate and 94-2 in the Virginia House of Delegates. “The swiftness and near-unanimity with which the repeal passed suggests the regulations had remained in place not out of necessity but out of pure inertia,” he continued.

Since February, bars, and restaurants have been allowed to display their creative happy hour slogans and advertisements to their heart's desire. So if you happen to notice billboards, Facebook ads, or radio mentions about the three dollar beers you’ve been longing for, Pacific Legal Foundation is the organization to thank.