Virginia restaurants have long been prohibited from promoting happy hour specials as “Margarita Mondays” or “Wine Wednesdays.”
But beginning July 1, business owners will be able to test their creativity by advertising happy hours and drink specials after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed new legislation into law Monday.
The ceremonial signing took place at Tatva Indian Cuisine in Herndon. Proponents of the new law say it will improve Virginia restaurant revenue and shows support for small businesses. The signing amends Virginia Code 4.1-111 relating to Alcoholic Beverage Control.
“This is really going to be a game changer for us,” Tatva Indian Cuisine Co-Owner Sujith Maram said. “I believe it’s going to drive the business more and ultimately revenue for us.”
In January, Del. John Bell (D-87th) introduced House Bill 2073, which ultimately passed with a 90-4 vote. In the Senate, Sen. Ryan McDougle (R-4th) from the Mechanicsville area introduced a similar bill, which passed 37-3 the following month.
The bills will allow restaurants to advertise the prices of featured alcoholic beverages provided such techniques don't tend to induce over-consumption or consumption by minors.
“I think this is an example of where we can hear from businesses, get feedback, then go be responsive and make things better,” Bell said. “The best pieces of legislation I’ve been able to carry, and I think my colleagues would back me up, are when people come to us and say, ‘This is not working for me, what can we do to make this better?’ And this is an example of that.”
With the restrictions being lifted, the impact is expected to be felt throughout the state and Loudoun County.
Loudoun Chamber Vice President of Membership and Government Affairs Grafton DeButts said in a prepared statement, “The removal of this long-time restrictive regulation against our local restaurant industry will be have huge implications. In no other industry is a top revenue generating promotion restricted from actually being shared publicly. This will lead to more open competition in the marketplace and the winners will be all of Loudoun’s residents that regularly patron our restaurants.”
Sterling-based Twinpanzee Brewing Company Chief Financial Officer Maha Majdoub, who has co-owned the brewery along with her husband since 2013, said at the ceremonial signing she is looking forward to rolling out new promotions starting next week.
“This allows us to be creative and put fun things out there to our customers," Majdoub said.
Ford Fish Shack restaurant owner Tony Stafford, who owns three locations in Loudoun County, said he is extremely happy with the new law.
Northam credited voters for bringing the idea to lawmakers, similar to how the smoking ban, which he pushed for in 2009, became law after Virginians raised health concerns.
“These ideas came from people -- and in this case restaurant owners -- and they just made the point to the legislators that it is important to be able to advertise their product and to do in a responsible way,” Northam said. “I think their message was heard … and this is the way Virginia moves forward.”