Three cheers for a happy-hour victory for Virginia restaurateurs

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“What alcoholic drink starts offevolved with an F?”

That question nagged at me on a recent drive home. It becomes on the day Virginia eventually made it legal for restaurants to apply innovative phrases to explain happy hours, and the moment I discovered that my brain despatched me a wordplay invitation. In my thoughts, abruptly I turned into a restaurateur, writing my satisfied-hour signs and symptoms.

“Margarita Mondays” changed into smooth.

“Tequila Tuesdays” became a no brainer. Because I didn’t set the bar high, soon I had “Wine-ding down Wednesdays” and “On-Tap Thursdays.”

But what could work for Fridays?

It may additionally seem a ridiculous intellectual exercising, especially due to the fact I don’t have any instant plans to open a restaurant. But extra preposterous is if I did own one in Virginia, I couldn’t have written any of that on a signal outdoor my business earlier than July 1.

The new “glad hour law” might also appear silly, but its significance is going beyond pastel-colored chalk on a blackboard.

It is, at its middle, a First Amendment victory. It is ready the government subsequently recognizing that grown-us can take care of hearing the truth, at least when it comes to how we select to de-strain after work.

That’s something we have to all enhance a glass to, whether yours is full of a cocktail or a mocktail.

The issue becomes laid naked in a lawsuit delivered forward with the aid of Washington-region chef Geoff Tracy, who determined to combat the regulation that became in the long run tossed aside by new legislation. As of July 1, the brand new law allows Virginia eating places and bars to use innovative phrases to explain satisfied hours and to advertise what liquids will cost throughout those time slots.

“Now, charges and puns are felonies in Virginia,” said Anastasia Boden, the lead lawyer within the in shape filed on behalf of Tracy.

The basis for the lawsuit targeted the argument that due to the fact happy hours have been legal, advertising the truth approximately they need to be, too.

“The reason we introduced the lawsuit became to vindicate a deeper principle, and this is that the government can’t censor honest information for paternalistic motives,” Boden said. “All in the course of the litigation, the government had argued, ‘We can do that. We are allowed to do that because we think this is good for you.’ ”

Boden, who works for the Pacific Legal Foundation, described that as a dangerous stance while implemented more extensively.

Some states ban satisfied hours absolutely and others restriction aspects of advertising them, based on the argument that it’s going to reduce alcohol consumption and drunken driving. But Boden stated the evidence doesn’t assist that.

“If you appearance just across kingdom strains into Maryland and D.C., it’s now not as in case you see more traffic accidents due to alcohol,” she stated. And if decreasing drunken riding is the goal, she stated, “I assume there’s a better manner to get at that than with the aid of banning speech.”

Tracy, who operates eating places in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia, stated he is pleased the restrict is long gone.

“I just notion it turned into ridiculous you couldn’t inform human beings Budweisers had been 3 greenbacks,” he said. He also couldn’t describe glad hour beyond the one’s phrases. “I couldn’t say ‘very satisfied hour’ or ‘ultimate satisfied hour.’ ”

Now, he stated, if an eating place allows puppies on a patio, it could advertise “yappy hour.”

“Virginia has continually been an honestly top nation to do commercial enterprise in,” Tracy stated. “Now, it became a touch bit higher.”

He stated he has heard from other eating place owners who are also celebrating the trade. In an email he shared, one wrote, “You don’t realize me however I am a restaurant/bar owner in Norfolk Virginia. I wanted to thanks on your awesome efforts in supporting VA ABC to see the light on the satisfied hour!”

Boden stated during the case, which lasted about a yr in court docket, they heard from enterprise owners, a few who had been fined $500 with the aid of the county’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority for advertising their happy hours.

She and Tracy each said they might have preferred to have visible the difficulty settled in court — in preference to thru legislation — so they might have set felony precedent, however, both expressed pleasure that Virginia, in the end, did the right issue.

Tracy said it’s just unfortunate it didn’t come sooner.

Ten days earlier than the law went into effect, he closed his Tysons restaurant, Chef Geoff’s, which was named in the lawsuit. The hire expired on that day, and he had determined in advance no longer to resume it.

“That turned into bittersweet,” Tracy stated. “If it was there, we might’ve had to have had some type of party.”

If the restaurant had remained open, Boden said, she “would have cherished to have visible” the satisfied-hour description Tracy came up with.

I would have, too. I have no doubt it’d had been a lot extra smart and purchaser-appealing than what I concept up in my vehicle that night time.

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