Press Release

Virginia Restaurateur Sues over Unconstitutional “Happy Hour” Gag Rule

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 “This law reflects outdated notions about alcohol best left in the Prohibition days.”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.

About Pacific Legal Foundation
Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) is the nation’s leading public interest legal organization devoted to preserving individual rights and economic freedom. Since 1973, donor-supported PLF has successfully litigated for limited government, private property rights, and free enterprise in the nation’s highest courts.


For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Collin Callahan at ccallahan@pacificlegal.org.

Case Attorneys

Thomas Berry

Attorney

Thomas Berry is an attorney in PLF’s Sacramento office. Prior to joining PLF, Berry was a legal associate in the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies. While at Cato, Berry … ›

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Anastasia P. Boden

Attorney

Anastasia Boden is an attorney in PLF’s Economic Liberty Project, where she challenges anti-competitive licensing laws and laws that restrict freedom of speech. Anastasia’s practice largely consists of representing entrepreneurs … ›

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Case Commentary

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By Anastasia P. Boden

Raising a glass to freedom of speech

Chef Geoff Tracy is an entrepreneur, cookbook author, and owner of three successful restaurants in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. In two of those restaurants—those located in Maryland and Washington, … ›

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Post

By Anastasia P. Boden

No, Virginia, we’re not going anywhere

As readers know, Virginia strictly forbids having too much fun with happy hour advertisements. The state allows businesses to use the sanitized statements “Happy Hour,” or “Drink Specials,” but forbids … ›

Read more