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Bars aren’t happy about social media ad ban

Why are bar and restaurant owners frowning when it comes to advertising “happy hour” specials?

Because in the age of Twitter and Facebook, Virginia law prohibits advertising drink specials using social media.
Drinking establishments can legally sell alcohol at lower prices until 9 p.m. The problem is, they aren’t allowed to advertise that fact in the media – not even on the Internet or with social media.

This year, legislation to end that ban looked like it was soaring through the Virginia General Assembly. But last month, the bill’s sponsor, Delegate David B. Albo, R-Springfield, decided to pull the plug on it for this session.

“A bunch of people who are against underage drinking were concerned about the bill,” Albo said. “I did not really understand their opposition because even if an underage person saw the website, they still could not go to the restaurant and purchase alcohol.” One of the opponents was Daniel Fabian, coordinator of alcohol and
substance abuse at the University of Richmond. He fears that advertising happy hours with social media would prompt more young people to drink.

“If the bill would have passed, our biggest concern was about the increase of overconsumption of underage drinkers,” Fabian said.

House Bill 470, which passed the House unanimously on Feb. 10, would have allowed drinking establishments “to post on a website or social media site maintained or administered by the licensee or his agent information about the time periods during which alcoholic beverages are being sold at reduced prices and to include in connection there with the terms ‘Happy Hour’ or ‘Drink Specials.’ ”

Albo said he thought the measure was pretty innocuous.

“The bill would not have allowed anyone to promote anything,” he said. “It merely would allow a restaurant to put its happy hour specials on its own website. That website may be a Facebook site or a regular website.”

But on Feb. 17, Albo decided to withdraw his bill, and the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee voted unanimously to strike HB 470 from consideration.

“It just got too controversial,” Albo said.

Since the 1980s, state law has barred liquor license holders from publicly advertising happy hour and drink specials outside their establishment or through electronic media.

In 2009, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board approved of bars and restaurants displaying a 17-inch-by-22-inch sign in the window of their business. That sign can say the business offers happy hour at a certain time – but nothing else.

Information advertising the drink specials can be posted only inside the establishment, but not where they can be seen from outside.

Bars and restaurants can’t put any of this information online. Such restrictions irk people in the business.

“It’s really annoying that we can’t put drink specials on our own website,” said Bart Carrique, beverage director for Cha Cha’s Cantina in Richmond’s Shockhoe Slip entertainment district. “It is a hinder on our sales at promoting our industry, period.”

The ABC Board defines electronic media as “any system involving the transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, television, electromagnetic, photo-electronic, or photo-optical system, including, but not limited to, radio, television, electronic mail, and the Internet.”

The board restricts happy hour advertising because it is concerned about overconsumption of alcohol, underage drinking, drunken driving and other behavior.
Community

Celebrating 106 years

Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

YMCA breaks ground for aquatic center

YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Journey to mediocrity

‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ fails to capitalize on tasty concept
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a curious little Romeo and Juliet of a film. A family, forced out of their native India, begins a trek across Europe.

The family’s sole mode of transportation sputters and dies in a sleepy little French town, but the town’s food culture is high, and that’s a perfect place for a family of restaurateurs to settle down. There’s only one problem – the family’s rustic “Maison Mumbai” is right across the street (a hundred feet away, if the title didn’t clue you in) from a prestigious French bistro with a Michelin star, run with an iron fist by the dreaded Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren, pictured).

It’s here that a particular Romeo and Juliet story begins to develop, with Hassan (Manish Dayal) on the Indian side and Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) on the French side. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy the final days of summer with comedian Guy Torry, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour or mystery writer Mary Miley Theobald at Twin Hickory Library. Another great way to welcome the beginning of fall is to check out the UR Spider Football season opener with man’s best friend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

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Deep Run Park, 9900 Ridgefield Pkwy., will host A Grand Family Affair, an intergenerational event designed for families to celebrate Grandparents’ Day, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. There will… Full text

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