A viral July 30 2022 tweet showed an image of a purported sign at an Applebee’s restaurant, advising patrons that minors were not permitted in an area without a parent or “adult spouse”:
Fascists attacking drag bars, meanwhile Applebee's has specific signage welcoming child brides… pic.twitter.com/oRq9TjXQNf
— Strewth 🏳️⚧️ (@StrewthQueen) July 30, 2022
That tweet contrasted the content of the sign with a recent controversy involving “drag brunches” and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R); more broadly, the observation compared chagrin over drag events with corporate signage presumably referencing legal marriages between “minors” and an “adult spouse.”
Although the tweet itself was extremely popular, it made no reference to where or when the attached image was captured, besides, presumably, an Applebee’s location.
Alabama Applebees… from funnyApplebee’s ‘Adult Spouse’ SignApplebee’s ‘Adult Spouse’ Sign
On both Reddit threads, commenters often alluded to alcohol-related laws in the United States, typically prohibiting the consumption of alcohol for individuals younger than 21. A commenter on r/funny remarked:
Why is everyone in this comment section so stupid? Minor means under 21 for a bar, not 18
On r/HolUp, another user replied:
Ahhh, the awkward age of 18,19 and 20, where you can vote, drive and die for your country, but god forbid you have a beer or rent a car.
Other commenters referenced a gray area of privileges and expectations afforded to married people between the ages of 18 and 21:
Some states have laws that let your underage spouse consume alcohol in your presence. What’s the hold up about a proactive law[.]
Alcohol minor, aka <21. So a 21 yo married to a 20 yo for example.
Further commenters in the thread suggested the sign should say “underage,” and that “literally a 1 day age difference between an adult and a minor” could be applicable to the sign’s wording. Another commenter explained that the descriptor applied to the two-year age gap with their spouse for a time:
When My wife and I got married, me(21) her(19) at the time, when we’d go out together I would get her booze this way. We’d laugh about it because it was such an obvious law that’s been outdated, she’d always take a sip and say “now you’re responsible for all my actions muhahaha”. We’ve been married 14 years now. Needless to say it was a hassle, Virginia had the same law, but only so many restaurants would be fine with it.
A different July 30 2022 tweet was shared to Facebook with a different interpretation:
Seeing a reminder that child bride marriage in the United States is not only widely legal but common enough in some places to be specifically acknowledged like this is a trip. pic.twitter.com/7ula15duzN
— PolarJohan (@PolarJohan15) July 30, 2022
Predictably, the official Twitter account for Applebee’s (@Applebees) was frequently tagged for comment and verification. However, the chain did not appear to respond to any of the tagged tweets, and the sign, if it was not an altered photograph, could have been specific to a franchised location:
excuse me @Applebees, but WTH is this?
you welcoming child brides now with an “adult spouse”??? pic.twitter.com/OsJRDCNYvY
— LeGate☮️ (founder @ pillow-fight.com) (@williamlegate) July 31, 2022
The July 30 2022 tweet from @StrewthQueen was by far the most viral, but it was not the first iteration. On July 29 2022, user @srslyberserk shared what was likely the original image — again, without information about the photograph:
Applebees is keeping it classy pic.twitter.com/6XHKTAyrwK
— 🅱️erserrrrrrrrrkkk (@srslyberserk) July 29, 2022
Finally, the verbiage of the sign reminded us of a February 2019 fact check we published, regarding alcohol consumption laws specific to the state of Wisconsin:
In it, we quoted a Wisconsin state resource explaining whether “children and underage individuals [were] legally allowed to consume alcohol at a bar or restaurant”:
Yes. Persons under age 21 may possess and consume alcohol beverages if they are with their parents, guardians or spouses of legal drinking age; but this is at the discretion of the licensee. The licensed premises may choose to prohibit consumption and possession of alcohol beverages by underage persons.
On or around July 31 2022, an Applebee’s “adult spouse” sign began spreading virally via a viral tweet. It appeared the image was initially shared one day earlier by @srslyberserk, but none of the iterations provided contextual information about the sign. Commenters mainly deemed the “adult spouse” phrasing offensive, often leading to discussion about the gap between “adulthood” at 18 and the legal drinking age of 21 in the United States. Applebee’s didn’t respond to user questions about the “adult spouse” sign, and it was likely unedited. Owing to prohibitions on drinking for Americans under the age of 21, the sign itself was not implausible. Similarly, it was possible the signage was specific to a jurisdiction where “minors” under the age of 21 were permitted to consume alcohol in the presence of a parent, guardian, or “adult spouse” over the age of 21. We will update this story as we receive more information.