Is ABC bending rules by Facebooking their Black Friday specials?

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–Black Friday isn’t just for blue-ray players, home theater systems and iPads; no, it’s a time for discounted libations as well. 

The state’s ABC stores hope you’ll stuff your stockings with distilled spirits this season. That’s why this Black Friday they are getting into the spirit with extended hours and deep discounts (Read more about specials here).

“Customers can come in and find some of our products marked 25-50 percent off,” said Carol Mawyer with the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. They will also offer an additional 10 percent discount off purchases totaling $50.

She said they tested this Black Friday special for the first time last year, without even advertising it, and the day poured in $3.3 million in revenue.

Mawyer said that was a $398,000 increase from sales in 2010.

Customer count was up last year, with 5,500 more customers, and that was without any special promotions offered.

This year ABC is actually getting the word out.

“We’re just letting our existing customers know,” Mawyer said.  They’re using flyers, register receipts and even social media sites like Facebook.

However, CBS 6 wanted to know if the ABC is breaking the very rules they set for other food and beverage establishments, which prohibits the advertisement of drink specials using social media.  There are very specific rules for bars have to follow per electronic media. 

Right now restaurants can’t put happy hour information on their own websites, or social media.

Currently, use of social media falls under ABC regulation as electronic media.

Electronic media is defined by the ABC as, “any system involving the transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, television, electromagnetic, photo-electronic, or photo-optical system, including, but not limited to, radio, television, electronic mail, and the Internet.”

House Bill 470 actually passed the House during the last General Assembly session, but was struck down in the Senate. The bill would have required the ABC Board to adopt regulations to allow restaurants and retailers to post Happy Hour specials on their website and social media sites. Read more: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?121+cab+HC10112HB0470+BREF

We asked Mawyer about the seeming discrepancy and she insisted they’re not breaking any rules. “We’re not speaking specific prices here,” Mawyer said. “We just say Black Friday specials.”

On the Va. ABC Facebook page for instance, a link is provided which leads you to the highlights of the Black Friday sale.

“No, I couldn’t do that at all,” said bar and restaurant owner, Jake Crocker. He said if he posted a similar ad on his social media sites, he’d likely be cited by the ABC board.

Crocker said, though, that he likes the law.

“The last thing that anyone needs in Virginia is the bars getting into a gas war with happy hour,” said Crocker. 

However, he takes issue with ABC not setting the example. “It’s a little bit of a double-standard,” said Crocker.

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