Discounted happy hour drinks have been banned in Massachusetts for nearly four decades, but they could make a comeback this year, despite opposition from bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.
As the Legislature considers a $4.4 billion economic development bill, the state Senate has approved an amendment proposed by Sen. Julian Cyr that would give cities and towns permission to allow bars to selling drinks after work at a reduced price.
A happy hour return is a popular idea among citizens – according to a 2021 survey by MassINC, 70% of residents were in favor of the practice. Respondents to this survey said the availability of ride-sharing apps to prevent people from driving while intoxicated makes happy hour more enjoyable. Another recent effort to revive happy hours through a ballot question failed to secure enough signatures to secure a spot on the ballot this year.
“People have options, like ride-sharing options like Uber and Lyft, that give people another way to get home,” Cyr told GBH News. “Happy hour is something I hear over and over again from constituents, friends and small businesses as an option people would love to have.”
But industry groups and some restaurateurs oppose reinstating discounts on happy hour drinks. Steve Clark, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, expressed concerns about the amendment.
“You spend so much money creating and pricing your menu that cutting one of your highest items now doesn’t really make sense for a restaurant’s bottom line,” said Clark. “It doesn’t really work.”
Abby Taylor, manager of Grendel’s Den Restaurant & Bar in Cambridge, told GBH News she had the same concern. “It’s not really worth it for us to cut down on alcohol, it just invites a lot of trouble. We have enough trouble keeping people from drinking too much,” Taylor said. half-price dishes during happy hour.
Let our titles come to you.
Cyr points out that the amendment won’t force businesses or municipalities to allow happy hour again, it just creates an option that businesses and cities will have.
“It’s about giving to cities and towns looking to revitalize their downtown or get people back to the main street as they were coming out of this pandemic,” Cyr said.
And he notes that happy hour “is just something people enjoy.”
Clark with the MRA areed. “I, 22, would be shocked if I took a stand against happy hour,” he said.