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Advertising

With changes in happy hour and advertising, Virginia ABC special agents realize there may be uncertainty among the licensee community about what is or is not allowed. Following are some basic guidelines and tips; for questions about specific advertisements, please contact your special agent.

Advertising cannot entice or make false promises. Specifically, advertisements cannot:

  • encourage underage drinking or excessive drinking.
  • be lewd or obscene.
  • mention the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
  • be false or misleading or imply any therapeutic effects from drinking.

Regularly Priced Items

Licensees may advertise alcoholic beverage products they carry, regular prices of drinks, wine pairings, descriptions of signature cocktails, etc.

Advertisements cannot reference any manufacturer or wholesaler in response to payment by the manufacturer or wholesaler—in other words, it is not permitted for a manufacturer to pay a licensee to advertise a product by name.

Drink Specials

Drink specials can only be advertised inside an establishment, with these limitations.

  • The drink specials themselves must follow ABC rules and regulations.
  • The advertising signage cannot be seen from outside the establishment. This includes advertisements in exterior windows or anywhere in the store or restaurant interior that is visible from the outside—except on table menus or newspaper tear sheets.
  • Interior retail advertising must be made of paper, cardboard, canvas, rubber, foam or plastic; or it may be in the form of posters in frames or mirrors. Illuminated devised are prohibited.

Drink specials cannot be advertised outside an establishment or in media. The promotion of discounts for specific drink types, brands, and prices items is always prohibited, even during “happy hour.”

FAQs

Can photos of alcoholic beverages be posted on a licensee’s website or social media including bottles that display brands and photos of beer/wine/cocktails by the glass? What about tap handles with logos?
Yes, photos of alcoholic beverages, in bottles or glasses, and tap handles with logos are allowed on websites and social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Licensees may advertise alcoholic beverage products they carry (“we have 20 specialty brews on tap including…”), regular prices of drinks, wine pairings, descriptions of signature cocktails, etc.

What’s the official rule for advertising alcoholic beverages on a licensee’s website or social media?
Licensees may advertise alcoholic beverage products they carry, regular prices of drinks, wine pairings, descriptions of signature cocktails, etc. This may include photos of alcoholic beverages, in bottles or glasses, and tap handles with logos.

Training Approval Program

Learn how to submit your training program for approval. If your business conducts its own alcohol server training course, you can have it approved by Virginia ABC, pursuant to COV 4.1-227(E). Once approved, it will be your responsibility to keep your program updated with changes to Virginia's codes and regulations, and to maintain all records of training classes conducted.
This information is meant for general guidance only. For specific questions, contact your ABC special agent. To view ABC laws and regulations, visit Virginia’s Legislative Information System.