UPDATE: St. Joseph police: Drink specials, social media don't mix

Friday, September 5, 2014 | 6:24 a.m. CDT; updated 9:22 p.m. CDT, Friday, September 5, 2014

ST. JOSEPH — Missouri's Department of Public Safety has been asked to clarify whether a state law that forbids bars from advertising drink prices also applies to social media sites.

The St. Joseph Police Department sent a letter to bar owners last week reminding them it's against the law to host all-you-can drink specials and that it's also a violation to advertise drink prices.

Bar owners say the city has no right to tell them what they can put on their social media sites because the law applies to advertisements on radio, TV and newspapers, the St. Joseph News-Press reported.

"We don't believe St. Joe has any right to regulate and restrict the use of social media and what we do with social media, being that it's a public access network," said St. Joseph bar owner Monte Ingram, who said he has been posting information about specials on the bar's Facebook page for at least four years.

"This is something new, and it's just not going over well with any of the bars right now," he said.

Police Sgt. Larry Stobbs Jr. said there is no change in laws, and the letter was sent as a reminder to bars on what they can and cannot do.

Bars can advertise times when they will have special prices, such as happy hour or ladies' nights, but they can't list exact costs. Police said the law also extends to social media.

"That's no different than seeing it on a public advertisement," Stobbs said. "That's what a lot of places tend to forget about."

But Ingram thinks the letter was written solely to add more regulations to small businesses, and he wants more time to clarify the law before police start writing tickets.

City Attorney Lisa Robertson said she has asked for clarification from the Department of Public Safety about what extent social media is considered advertising. Bar owners also want clarification about whether they can get in trouble if employees or customers post prices on their personal pages.

Robertson said the city has decided not to enforce the social media aspect until the questions are answered.

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