Happy hour has been illegal in Massachusetts for the past 28 years, but a revived debate about two-for-one and discounted alcoholic drink specials could bring the practice back.
In light of bars' and restaurants' competitive disadvantage to proposed casinos, which will be allowed to offer free drinks, the state is looking into whether to update the happy hour law for bars and restaurants.
Next week the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission will hear Boston residents views in a public hearing in Boston. The hearing will take place on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon at the McCormick Building, 1 Ashburton Place (21st Floor Conference Room). It's the fourth of five public hearings across the state.
Currently, the law does not permit bars or restaurants to offer drink specials, including free or discounted alcohol. The restriction was passed in 1984 in order to discourage driving under the influence and binge drinking. Massachusetts was one of the first states to ban happy hour.
But some restauranteurs are saying that the casinos soon to come to the Commonwealth will take away business as customers head to the gaming centers for free booze.
However, not all restaurant owners want to see the law changed. The Massachusetts Restaurant Association opposed a Senate proposal last year that would allow them to offer free alcohol, according to the Boston Herald.
“Proponents for the happy hour are saying that if they were able to do two-for-ones and things like that, they would be able to better compete with the casinos, and we disagree,” Peter Christie, CEO of the restaurant group, told the Herald. “If you think you can compete with a casino on price, you’re making a huge mistake. You can’t compete with free.”
A couple of Beacon Hill bars who talked to Patch were not all that interested in seeing happy hour come back.
"I think it's kind of strange to bring it back because the reason they passed it is because so many people were getting drunk and getting killed," Lily Lowry, manager of the said. Although Lowry said the pub would make more money if happy hour were reintroduced, she doesn't have strong feelings about the bringing it back one way or the other.
Another pub manager, who didn't want to talk on the record, said that she thinks happy hour does more harm than good.
The state's alcohol board will conclude its public hearings Sept. 18 in Northampton and submit a written report of its recommendations by June 30 to the governor, treasurer and Legislature.
Those interested in the issue are are welcome to attend the hearing and testify or submit written comments. Those who wish to testify are asked to notify ABCC Executive Director Ralph Sacramone at 617-727-3040 x 731, in advance of the hearing.