Roanoke restaurants react to new happy hour law

Bars say it could boost business, others worry it encourages heavy drinking

ROANOKE, Va. – A new law will make it easier for bars and restaurants to advertise happy hour drink specials.

The governor signed the law earlier this month. Now bars will be able to use signs, social media and phrases like "Tequila Tuesday," "Wine Down Wednesday" or "Thirsty Thursday." They can also advertise specific drink prices. Previously, customers had to go inside to find out.

Restaurants in Roanoke say the new law could boost business.

"To let your clientele-base know when what you offer, especially being downtown," said Michael Caudill, co-owner of Table 50. "Five o'clock, there's people that want to have a drink before they go home or wind down after work."

"Even as simple as having our sign outside advertising the prices, it entices people to come in," said Aubrie Jessee, the assistant general manager at Tuco's Taqueria Garaje. "We're still on the outskirts of downtown. I think it will bring more people this way."

Bars will not be allowed to hold happy hour after 9 p.m. or have 2-for-1 or 3-for-1 specials. The law also does not allow anyone to promote under-age drinking or over-consumption. Roanoke Prevention Alliance Director Melanie Morris says that could be hard to regulate.

"Research has shown that anytime there's a discounted beverage or free beverages, people will drink more. Who wants to pay for a really expensive drink? Our concern is the increase in drinking and driving," Morris said.

They do agree the responsibility to keep customers happy and safe will fall on bars and restaurants.

"You don't want to over-serve anyone," Jessee said.

"As long as everyone maintains their level of responsibility and doesn't get out of hand; start offering, you know, outrageously cheap liquor, shooters, shots and things like that, then -- for the most part -- it should be a good thing," Caudill said.

The new law goes into effect in July.

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