Food Freedom

Massachusetts Could Lift Its Decades-Old Happy Hour Ban

The ban hasn't prevented deadly drunk driving incidents, but it is hamstringing bars and restaurants hurt by COVID shutdowns.

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A bill now making its way through the Massachusetts legislature could eliminate a longstanding state ban on happy-hour drink specials, one of America's worst food bans. The move to overturn the ban comes as a recent poll shows that just one in five Massachusetts voters supports keeping the ban in place.

The bill, part of a broader package intended to support the recovery of bars and restaurants in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, is sponsored by State Rep. Mike Connolly (D), who represents voters in Somerville and Cambridge. Connolly's bill, which would create a commission to study lifting the ban, "would also permanently extend certain measures that were popular during the pandemic, [l]ike cocktails to go and extended outdoor dining."

The state implemented the happy hour ban in 1984 following the death of a young woman shortly after she'd consumed numerous happy hour drinks at a local pub chain. The woman jumped onto the hood of a car in the pub's parking lot. She then fell off the car, which was also driven by a drunk happy hour reveler, and died.

"The state's new regulation specifically prohibits offering free drinks, discounted drinks or special 'jumbo' drinks that cost as much as regular drinks," The New York Times reported in December 1984, when the Massachusetts ban took effect. "Unlimited numbers of drinks can no longer be offered for a fixed price, and bars are prohibited from sponsoring such promotions as darts or music contests that award alcoholic drinks as prizes. A pitcher of beer can henceforth be sold only to a party of two or more customers."

While Massachusetts was the first state to ban happy hours, today it is one of at least 10 states across the country that prohibits such specials. Notably, Massachusetts wouldn't be the first to rescind a happy-hour ban. Illinois repealed its statewide ban several years ago.

State Rep. Ronald Mariano (D), who serves as House speaker in Massachusetts, says he's open to discussing a lifting of the ban. And though Gov. Charlie Baker (R) says he's unlikely to support lifting the ban, suggesting that his thinking is in line with that of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), a MADD spokesperson told Boston.com recently that the group does not oppose happy hour drink specials.

Even if the happy-hour ban's goals were laudable—to combat drunk driving and to reduce injuries and deaths caused by drunk drivers—the happy hour ban never achieved those goals. As I reported in a 2015 column, Massachusetts "has the second-highest rate of drunk driving in New England, and a rate that's 15 percent higher than the national average." Massachusetts drivers report much higher rates of drunk driving than the national average. Incidents such as the one that spurred the ban continue to occur, including the case of an elderly, allegedly intoxicated man who was arrested in 2019 after police say he plowed into two people outside an Applebee's restaurant in a Boston suburb. (To be fair, at least one assessment of drunk-driving arrests and deaths ranks Massachusetts as the best in the country.)

Many bar owners support lifting the ban.

"We are all suffering very much, and at this present time, anything (the government) can do will help us," Donato Frattaroli, who owns two Boston-area restaurants, told the Boston Herald last week. "That is a great idea to bring it back." 

Even some bar owners who aren't fans of happy hour discounts support lifting the ban. 

The aforementioned 1984 Times report quoted a patron of The Sevens, a bar in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood, where the state capitol also sits. I called The Sevens this week and spoke with owner Jack Kiley, who's owned the bar for 45 years. Kiley told me that while he doubts he'd offer happy hour specials if lawmakers lift the ban, he agrees such choices should be left to bar and restaurant owners rather than to the state.

That's how it is in most states. And, if Massachusetts lawmakers can get it right, that's how it'll be the next time I come home to the state of my birth to enjoy a dollar off a cold one (or two).

NEXT: America's Cross-Partisan Dalliance With Eugenics

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89 responses to “Massachusetts Could Lift Its Decades-Old Happy Hour Ban

  1. If they didn’t want to be hurt by covid lock downs, they shouldn’t have voted for progressives

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  2. Massholes are gonna masshole.

    1. This Corona Virus hit my business very hard … 🙁

      1. I see what you did there. 🙂

  3. Preventing “sale pricing” on alcohol is stupid, and I hate intrusive regulation….

    But I would welcome a law that requires prices on drink menus.

    How many places have you been to that have nice photos of their specialty cocktails, but no price? Then you find out you just paid $22 for a very mediocre margarita.

    The same dude who passed on the chicken Alfredo because $20 is too much for a stupid pasta dish pays $22 for a single drink.

  4. “…But I would welcome a law that requires prices on drink menus…”

    Sevo’s law:
    Any time a third party sticks its nose into a free transaction between two free actors, one or both loses.

    Hint: Go someplace else or ask.

    1. Oh, it isn’t for me….

      It is for this certain person who lives in my house and has access to my credit cards and bank accounts and believes it is rude to ask how much stuff at a restaurant costs. This unnamed person also believes it is rude to decline when asked if you would like to try the special drink.

      Probably internalized from days spent as a professional server, working hard to get the per table average up.

      So while one of us is declining the “chef’s special” because $23 is way too damn much for a pasta dish, the other is ordering up a $20 beverage.

      1. You have a very libertarian choice to make; Keep a certain person away from your finances, or shut up about it. Your card, your choice.

        1. If it’s a marriage, it is their card, their choice.

          While marriage is a choice too, it costs many Chicken Alfredos and many mixed drinks to escape.

  5. Connolly’s bill, which would create a commission to study lifting the ban,

    So they’re going to hash out a way of selecting a panel which would nominate a committee to do a feasibility study on the subject of electing a board to look into the matter of creating a commission?

    1. Demockracy in action!

    2. Whoaaaa! Slow down there. There needs to be a group appointed to study the best way to select said panel first. Can’t rush into these these things.

  6. What’s up Peanuts?

    Question – why are us white middle-aged males so angry? I don’t get it.

    We have run the country forever, we enjoy the vast majority of the massive wealth created by our market system, we have almost all the artistic influence or positions of power, we run local governments except where we live in a few big cities, and dominate the media.

    You guys are the demo. Do tell us.

    Disclosure – I was prompted by this essay:

    https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/07/american-anger-polarization-fox-news/

    1. Well, as a starting point, each white male is an individual, with a unique personality, personal history, and thoughts. (Also true of any other demographic or racial group one can name.) So, just their being treated as if they are all the same is kinda … racist.

      Probably the spark that really ignited resentment was when Hillary Clinton referred to a large chunk of the United States’ citizens as “deplorables”.

    2. As a white non-binary person in my 20s, I can’t give a direct answer. But indeed, white middle-aged male rage is THE most pressing public health and national security problem facing our nation today.

      For example, remember all those scenes of burning buildings and looted businesses you saw during the #BLM protests? Middle-aged white males did that. Proud Boys, most likely, in a pathetic attempt to paint racial justice advocates as lawless punks.

      Also consider the shocking caught-on-video violent attacks against Asian Americans that led to the #StopAsianHate hashtag. Again the attackers were, without exception, middle-aged white males.

      Maybe the Biden Administration can create a task force to develop strategies to save the rest of us from this angry, hateful, violent demographic.

      1. This is sarcasm, right? Geez I hope so. If you’re serious you’re mentally ill.

        1. OBL is a parody account. He breaks character every once in a while, though.

          1. No medication works all the time – – – – – – –

        2. OBL, chemjeff, Tony and White Mike are all parody accounts.

          1. White Mike being Mike Liarson.

    3. They are angry because progressive pieces of Jared shit post kiddie porn links in comment sections and other progressives either ignore it or redirect.

      1. Yes, that is the anger. Let it out. What are you angry about?

        Western decadence? Modernity?

        1. Diabolical pieces of shit that post kiddie porn.

    4. Nobody cares, shithead. The only angry people are you left liberaltarians who got suckered into voting for democrats.

      Nah you didn’t really get suckered, you wanted it all along like the good little rent boys you are.

      1. Yes, that is the anger. Let it out. What are you angry about?

        Western decadence? Modernity?

        1. I’m mad at pedophiles, Plug.

    5. “We have run the country forever”

      Buzzzz . No.

      1. Oh, Obama.

        Okay – one exception.

        1. You haven’t been running anything.

    6. Yeah, see, only a racist moron could possibly imagine that a coal miner would come home from a shift and say, “Sure, I have to work hard, I can’t afford what I want, I’m getting black lung, and my job’s in danger, but people with the same skin color and genitals as me run the country, so everything’s great!”

    7. Was it angry white males burning and looting last year? Were BLM thugs angry when they were burning down black businesses or were they just “showing the love”? Out in the burbs and rural areas, the white males I know are happy, working, and feeding the country.
      Of course, the shenanigans angered white males when they watched it on TV, but within minutes it was forgotten. We have work to do and toys to keep us occupied. I have seen the same group burn their own neighborhoods many times all over the world. It is not new. It is what they do, I accept that. It isn’t my neighborhood, I won’t have to look at burned businesses and looted stores, I moved away. Fuck them. Take a hint from Barrack Obama. Move as far away from the denizens of the ghetto as you can afford. You can then have a happy, productive, fruitful life. If you choose to live near the violent denizens of the ghetto, ensure that you are your business are well insured.

  7. Forget Chinagate, we need to talk about Chingate:

    https://www.businessinsider.com/aide-gave-president-joe-biden-note-something-on-his-chin-2021-7

    “During a virtual meeting with governors on Friday, a photographer captured the contents of a note passed to President Joe Biden from an aide: ‘Sir, there is something on your chin.'”

    1. “Sir, there is also something on your chin.”

    2. Dee knows all about stuff on her chin.

  8. I blame TRRRRRUUUUUUUMMMMMMPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Is it true that it’s illegal to change your own oil in Massachusetts?

    1. Not sure. Some towns there prohibit folks from pumping their own gas but that is not statewide.

    2. Looked it up and Mass requires stores that sell motor oil to accept used oil back. Some towns also will take it for recycling so from that evidence one is allowed tp change their own oil in Mass.

    3. No, but everything else is.

      Don’t come here, it’s a lousy place to live. Really.

      And the “Masshole” attitude? They think it’s funny. Rude, arrogant, selfish, nasty, far more ignorant that you’d expect given the number of top universities and brainbox businesses. Did I mention self-righteous, with progressive tunnel vision / echo chamber outlook that is the stuff of farce.

      1. I went to Boston recently, took some family members to the New England Aquarium, and I remember commenting “Everyone was surprisingly nice.” As in I got jacked up trying to park and the valets guided me, as well as showing me where the trash can was. The lady who validated my parking ticket did it with a smile, and when my kid asked where the bathroom was the girl didn’t snap at her.

        It was really weird.

        1. It does happen, from time to time.

          As when I spent a day in Paris (France) and found almost everyone incredibly pleasant.

          Would lightning strike twice?

        2. You’re unlikely to run into a classic Masshole in Boston anymore. There might be a few left closer to NH, but most have retired to Florida

  10. The French are revolting.

    No, not like that . . .

    French protesters took to the streets for the third consecutive Saturday to protest new restrictions on people unvaccinated against Covid-19, a movement that threatens to complicate the country’s coronavirus response.

    Protesters decrying what they called a “health dictatorship” and carrying banners and French flags reading “Freedom!” marched in cities across France, including Marseille and Lyon.

    The weekly protests are a new challenge for President Emmanuel Macron, who said in mid-July that a health pass would be necessary to enter places like restaurants . . . .

    Many of the protesters Saturday wore yellow vests, and some of the protests were organized by leaders of that movement. But many weren’t. One man near Paris’s Place de la Bastille carried a poster with the face of George Orwell. A woman wore a shirt that read “my body, my choice.”

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/vaccine-health-pass-fuels-french-protests-11627748518?

    The populist Yellow Jacket movement, French socialists, and French feminists all seem to agree on one thing–don’t tell the French when they can and when they can’t go to a French restaurant.

    1. Macron was not very happy about the bill board depicting him as A. Hitler.
      However I found it offensive to compare That idiot French Rothschild rent boy to Hitler.

    2. and French feminists all seem to agree on one thing–don’t tell the French when they can and when they can’t go to a French restaurant.

      Gavin Newsom agrees!

  11. While Massachusetts was the first state to ban happy hours, today it is one of at least 10 states across the country that prohibits such specials.

    But I’d bet that NJ is the only state that bans ladies nights.

    1. Did Jim McGreevey sign that into law?

      1. Court interpretation of existing discrimination law.

        1. Have they outlawed 55+ communities too?

          1. Nope, for a number of reasons. The biggies are federal laws, and meeting “low income” housing requirements without building low income homes.

    2. Does that imply that there any ladies left in NJ?

  12. No vaccine passport? No happy hour.

    With COVID numbers rising again, these 60 Seattle bars and restaurants now require proof of vaccination for entry

    With the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus spreading through Washington state, at least 60 Seattle bars and restaurants as of Friday afternoon are requiring customers to prove they have been vaccinated to eat or drink on their premises.

    The self-imposed mandate is headlined by many big names on Capitol Hill including The Unicorn, Linda’s Tavern, Rumba and Canon, and it comes as the state faces a fifth wave of infection. At least a dozen bars temporary shut down last week after their employees had tested positive for COVID-19 or came into contact with an infected person. That led many bar owners to announce over social media that proof of vaccination will now be required to dine or drink on their premises.

    1. What if a restaurant required proof one was HIV negative to dine there?

      1. Don’t be ridiculous. HIV isn’t transmissible by merely existing in the same room. However, if it were, you would be a homophobe for even suggesting it.

        1. Dr Fauci once claimed it was. And he always tells the truth. So…

  13. https://www.forbes.com/sites/willyakowicz/2021/07/27/billionaire-charles-koch-on-why-cannabis-should-be-legal/

    “The devout libertarian known for spending a fortune on political causes is now actively funding efforts to end federal marijuana prohibition.”

    1. Get the money out of politics.

      1. Say what?
        That would be like crossing the streams.

  14. Surprised not to see this covered at reason koch, why avoid it?

    https://apnews.com/article/lifestyle-business-health-california-coronavirus-pandemic-5ebe70407fcd94ef712c16410f32c4b1

    “At the beginning of next year, California will begin enforcing an animal welfare proposition approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2018 that requires more space for breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves. National veal and egg producers are optimistic they can meet the new standards, but only 4% of hog operations now comply with the new rules. Unless the courts intervene or the state temporarily allows non-compliant meat to be sold in the state, California will lose almost all of its pork supply, much of which comes from Iowa, and pork producers will face higher costs to regain a key market.”

    1. I am more than happy to watch California suffer for their stupidity, but this is especially ludicrous. Another reason to get rid of Newsom and stop letting democrats and their far left handlers take over.

      1. Larry Elder for Gov.
        Navin Gruesom’s worst nightmare.

    2. California will still have plenty of pork. But it will come mostly from Sacramento.

    3. A carnitas shortage won’t go over well in the Mexican-American community.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnitas

      It’s probably even worse than banning tortillas. You can make tortillas at home. You can’t raise your own pigs.

      1. Judging by the looks of some of those Latinas, maybe a bit of a restriction on caloric intake might be of some benefit.
        Almost as bad up here in Northern Michigan.

    4. “At the beginning of next year, California will begin enforcing an animal welfare proposition approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2018 that requires more space for breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves. National veal and egg producers are optimistic they can meet the new standards, but only 4% of hog operations now comply with the new rules. Unless the courts intervene or the state temporarily allows non-compliant meat to be sold in the state, California will lose almost all of its pork supply, much of which comes from Iowa, and pork producers will face higher costs to regain a key market.”

      I don’t get it. I haven’t read the link, but this requirement is for anyone selling the product in the state, whether or not it was produced elsewhere?

      1. The short answer is yes, it applies to farms from outside the state.
        Think globally, act locally.

        The long answer is that there were two lawsuits. One claimed it was unconstitutional for violating the Interstate Commerce Clause br regulating commerce among the states. The other claimed that Prop 12 violated the ICC because it was protectionist. They both failed.

        “The attorneys general of the following states signed a brief in support of the plaintiffs and against Proposition 12: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.[16]

        On April 27, 2020, Judge Thomas Whelan dismissed the case. He said that Proposition 12 was not directed at interstate commerce and did not call for uniform practices throughout the U.S. Judge Whelan wrote, “Thus, Proposition 12 does not regulate extraterritorially because it does not target solely interstate commerce and it regulates in-state and out-of-state conduct equally. Although there are upstream effects on out-of-state producers, those effects are a result of regulating in-state conduct.”

        https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_12,_Farm_Animal_Confinement_Initiative_(2018)

        There was a second suit that alleged Prop 12 violated the ICC because it was protectionist.

        On October 15, 2020, the Ninth Circuit issued its order, stating, “NAMI acknowledges that Proposition 12 is not facially discriminatory. The district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Proposition 12 does not have a discriminatory purpose given the lack of evidence that the state had a protectionist intent.”[19]

        On February 26, 2021, NAMI appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States . . . . The U.S. Supreme Court denied NAMI’s petition on June 28, 2021.

        —-Ibidem

  15. I’m 66 years old, and NOW you’re thinking about going back to happy hour? A lot of fucking good that does me. Am I going to get some retroactive pussy?

    In any case, I’ll be dead before this thing sees the light of day. It took decades for the legislature to allow casinos, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars going out of state. That would be because the first casinos would have gone to indian tribes, so there would be no phoney-baloney jobs for the cousins, brothers-in-law, neighbor’s wives, etc. That’s what you get in a one-party state.

  16. I’ll drink to that.

  17. This Corona Virus hit my business very hard … 🙁

  18. One Scotch
    one bourbon
    and one beer…

  19. Wouldn’t it be better to make the prices the same all the time?
    Happy hours discriminate against split shift and second shift workers, who are mostly minorities of one kind or another.
    I mean not even a democratic economist would pretend that there is a difference in demand from one hour to the next.

  20. Even if the happy-hour ban’s goals were laudable—to combat drunk driving and to reduce injuries and deaths caused by drunk drivers—the happy hour ban never achieved those goals. As I reported in a 2015 column, Massachusetts “has the second-highest rate of drunk driving in New England, and a rate that’s 15 percent higher than the national average.” Massachusetts drivers report much higher rates of drunk driving than the national average.

    So if there were a study that showed a correlation between the ban and a decrease in drunk driving accidents, you’d be OK with it? What that tells us, Linnekin, that you have already accepted the authoritarian premises of progressives, you just quibble with them over statistical details.

    FYI, here is the libertarian response: “It doesn’t matter whether the ban saves lives or doesn’t, it is an unjustified infringement on individual liberties. Libertarians hold people individually responsible for their actions and choices; we don’t outlaw legitimate business transactions because someone might use the purchased product to commit and illegal act.

  21. Is Massachusetts one of those places in New England where they refer to convenience stores as spas?

    1. I do remember a few such stores with signs calling themselves “Spas” when I was a kid in the late 70s/early 80s but haven’t seen any since then and never heard anyone call it that. I did hear plenty of people my parents age call soda tonic though.

  22. Problem in Mass. isn’t the happy hours-it’s the damned Mics!

  23. Bars are rip offs. Drink at home. Cheaper.

  24. Hello! Such an informative blog to read! Thank you so much for sharing this topic and for giving me more factors to consider. Keep it up!

  25. I can tell you if they offer cheaper drinks you just drink more and spend just as much money.

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