The state Senate has handed a invoice that might give Massachusetts cities and cities the correct to determine whether or not to permit pleased hour drink promotions at eating places and bars. It nonetheless has a number of hurdles to get by way of — assist from the Home and from Gov. Charlie Baker — and isn’t the primary try and overturn the practically 40-year-old ban. But when it succeeds, Boston and different municipalities may make their very own choices about whether or not to permit two-for-one drinks and different comparable specials throughout sure hours.
In November 1984, Massachusetts turned the primary state within the nation to implement a contented hour ban; there are at the moment eight states with comparable legal guidelines on the books, together with Rhode Island and Vermont. The Massachusetts ban adopted the loss of life of a 20-year-old girl in a restaurant parking zone; she was dragged underneath a automobile pushed by a pal underneath the affect after the 2 had left a trivia recreation that awarded free beer as a prize.
The Massachusetts legislation prohibits time-limited drink specials by dictating that pricing should be in impact for at the least one week. Moreover, venues can’t give out free drinks, ship greater than two drinks to 1 particular person at a time, provide limitless drinks for a hard and fast value throughout a set time (similar to a “bottomless brunch”), ship a pitcher to 1 particular person, or host video games that contain ingesting or award drinks as prizes.
The proposed laws would permit the state’s cities and cities to vote to permit alcohol reductions throughout sure hours at bars and eating places, however not after 10 p.m.; the reductions must be introduced at the least three days upfront. Native governments would have the ability to set their very own particular guidelines inside these tips. The proposal would even have the Alcoholic Drinks Management Fee create an advisory group to assist native governments implement pleased hours; the group would come with specialists in public security, alcohol licensing, alcohol distribution, protected driving, and restaurant operations.
Proposed by state Sen. Julian Cyr, this modification is a part of a $4.57 billion financial improvement invoice. The Home is working by itself model of an financial improvement invoice that doesn’t embody this provision, so there’s no assure it can make it into the ultimate laws. If it does, it’s unclear whether or not Baker would veto it, and he has beforehand expressed reluctance to assist the return of pleased hour. Republican gubernatorial candidates Geoff Diehl and Chris Doughty reportedly assist repealing the ban, whereas presumptive Democratic nominee Maura Healey is reportedly nonetheless reviewing the proposal.
There have been efforts to convey again pleased hour previously, together with in 2011 when laws round on line casino playing allowed casinos to distribute free alcohol to patrons on premises, with sure restrictions. This didn’t find yourself bringing a few wider repeal of the ban, and the state’s Alcoholic Drinks Management Fee printed a contented hour report two years later, following testimony and public conferences, concluding that liquor license holders have been “vehemently opposed” to bringing again pleased hours, describing them as “a public security hazard” and a “race to the underside” that might have companies pressured to compete for purchasers by providing bigger and bigger reductions. Extra not too long ago, a proposed 2022 poll query on bringing again pleased hour didn’t get sufficient signatures to advance within the course of, and two payments associated to pleased hour received despatched to check, successfully killing them.
So, what’s totally different this time round? Is there an opportunity it can cross? Massachusetts has all the time leaned a bit puritanical when it comes to liquor legal guidelines (let’s not even get into the weird cordial licensing in some Massachusetts municipalities, together with Boston), however there was some motion lately. In 2010, for instance, the state’s eating places have been capable of begin serving liquor at 10 a.m. as a substitute of midday on Sundays — wow — adopted 4 years later by the same allowance for liquor shops to open at 10 a.m. as a substitute of midday on Sundays. Plus, the state received onboard with to-go beer, wine, and cocktails — at the least quickly — through the pandemic. (And, alcohol apart, Massachusetts was one of many earlier states to legalize leisure marijuana. The instances are altering.)
Plus, whereas cabs have been clearly an possibility in 1984, newer ride-sharing choices like Uber and Lyft make it extra handy than ever to get a protected trip residence from the bar. A 2021 ballot means that 70 p.c of Massachusetts residents assist the concept of bringing again pleased hour.
It wouldn’t be a transparent win for eating places, who’re nonetheless battling staffing shortages and numerous different pandemic-era challenges, to not point out the shortage of help from the federal government. Completely happy hour may herald some further clients for a number of hours, positive, however what’s the nice of that if there’s no workers out there and the revenue margins are already so tight that providing drinks at a reduction is just too huge of a loss?
For now, Massachusetts residents should proceed consuming brunch with out bottomless mimosas and paying full value for each after-work shot, however keep tuned for updates on this new effort to convey again pleased hour. And hey, at the least there are greenback oysters.