Chef Geoff sues Virginia over happy hour law

- Popular D.C.-area Chef Geoff Tracy has filed a lawsuit against Virginia claiming his First Amendment rights are being violated due to the state’s law on happy hour advertising.

In Virginia, happy hour is defined as a time period where alcoholic drinks are sold at a reduced price. But bars and restaurants are very restricted at how they can advertise.

Businesses are only allowed to use the terms "happy hour" or "drink specials" for their promotions and they cannot put out anything specific regarding happy hour prices or discounted amounts when advertising outside of the business. Virginia also prohibits two-for-one drink specials.

Tracy has restaurants in Virginia, D.C. and Maryland and he has long been battling what he calls archaic prohibition-era laws in Virginia.

“If I do a sort of blanket email or a blanket advertisement on the radio or on television, I am sort of really in a gray area if I am talking about happy hour pricing sort of generically amongst the entire Chef Geoff’s restaurant group," he said.

He said this battle has finally come to a lawsuit. The Pacific Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm, is representing him pro-bono.

“I really should be able to sort of creatively describe my happy hour the way I want to,” Tracy said. “I should be able to use the words ‘Half-Price Wine Night,’ I should be able to use ‘Friday Fun Day,’ but I can't. I can only use happy hour and drink specials, and I can't tell you what the prices of any single one of my alcoholic beverages that I serve during happy hour. That is absurd and it doesn't make any sense.”

The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority said they cannot comment on pending litigation.

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