Dear Ace: I went to South Street Brewery for my usual Tuesday night of $2.50 drafts, only to be handed a slip of paper at the door explaining that such low, low prices could not be offered past 9pm, per ABC laws. Is this true? If so, how’d SS get away with it for so long? Or is SS management just tired of the crowd that fills their space to busting Tuesday nights?
Now where’s the local Tuesday night hot spot?—Hoppin’ Mad
Dear Hoppin’: Mmmm. Sweet, delicious beer. As Homer Simpson so astutely observed: It’s the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems. As a longtime quaffer of this effervescent nector of the gods, Ace feels your price-point pain. Local malt-beverage enthusiasts have grown accustomed to (dare I say complacent about?) drinking establishments offering inexpensive beer specials one or two nights a week. The problem is, Virginia’s alcohol governing body (Alcoholic Beverage Control, natch) has strict rules governing “Happy Hour and Related Promotions.” As Becky Gettings, the incredibly helpful director of public relations at ABC, informed us, “Happy hour cuts off at 9 o’clock. That’s Virginia law.” Specifically, as laid out in Virginia Statute No. 3 VAC 5-50-160.B: “Happy Hour is not allowed between 9pm and 2am.” In addition, “You cannot give away drinks,” “You cannot sell pitchers of mixed beverages,” and “Advertising cannot imply that the product has a theraputic effect.” (What? You mean that Ace’s father lied?)
So how did South Street (and others) get away with it for so long? Well, as Bill Clinton famously never said, it all depends on what your definition of “happy hour” is. Since South Street never advertised its Tuesday special outside of the brewery, there was some debate as to whether the law applied. Obviously, the ABC agent who dropped by for a routine check a few weeks back felt that it did, and so South Street owner Jacque Landry voluntarily changed his policy (no harm, no foul).
As for the location of another low-cost Tuesday hot spot, Ace is sworn to secrecy, lest the ever-vigilent ABC killjoys swoop in and take away Ace’s all-important amber anxiety medication. (One hint: it rhymes with “Snapture.”)
Sorry, Hoppin’, but it looks like you’re just going to have to start your drinking earlier, and get home at a decent hour for once. Bottoms up!