Virginia Restaurateur Sues over Unconstitutional “Happy Hour” Gag Rule
March 28, 2018
Vienna, Virginia; March 28, 2018: Virginia’s happy hour advertising law is the target of a federal First Amendment lawsuit filed today by Washington, D.C.-area, restaurateur Chef Geoff Tracy.
The law prohibits placing prices on happy hour advertising, as well as using any terminology other than “happy hour” and “drink specials.” Nor can business owners promote “two-for-one” drinks—they must be referred to as “half-priced” drinks instead.
This means ads promoting specials such as “Wine down Wednesdays” and “$5 Margaritas” are perfectly legal at Tracy’s restaurants in Maryland and D.C. But at Chef Geoff’s Tysons Corner in Vienna, Virginia, the exact same ads violate state law and could lead to fines and suspension of his liquor license.
“Advertising is crucial to the restaurant business, especially in Metro D.C. where happy hours are popular and competition among eateries is fierce,” Tracy said. “But Virginia would rather punish me than encourage economic prosperity.”
Pacific Legal Foundation, which defends individual liberties nationwide, represents Tracy free of charge. PLF argues that Virginia’s happy hour law not only harms Chef Geoff’s bottom line, it’s also unconstitutional.
“The First Amendment clearly protects Americans’ ability to speak truthfully and freely about their business practices,” said PLF attorney Anastasia Boden. “This law reflects outdated notions about alcohol best left in the Prohibition days.”
PLF filed Chef Geoff’s and Geoff Tracy v. Jeffrey Painter, et al., in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. More information is available at pacificlegal.org/ChefGeoff.
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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 17 wins of 19 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.