Northampton Residents, Restaurant Owners Say “No” to Happy Hour at Public Hearing

At a public meeting today (Tuesday) in Northampton, Massachusetts, residents, health advocates, restaurant owners, and local officials unanimously said “no” to state officials considering lifting the ban on happy hour. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, or ABCC, is considering amending the ban in light of future competition with casinos.

Eight individuals spoke at the public hearing, and all of them opposed any change in happy hour policy. Happy hour, which allows bars to offer discounted or free alcoholic drinks, has been banned in Massachusetts for 28 years.

Claudio Guerra is the owner of the Spoleto Group, which operates six restaurants in western Massachusetts. He says reinstating happy hour would be a major step backwards. 

“Well, first of all, if I have to sell two drinks for the price of one, that’s not more money in my pocket, that’s not more profit. The problem is, it brings people in the front door, but the reality is, it doesn’t really add to the bottom line, and it creates more problems than it does benefits.”

Guerra says though he opposes it, he would feel obligated to have happy hour in his restaurants if it became law, in order to keep up with the competition. Heather Warner, with the Strategic Planning Initiative for Families and Youth, says bringing back happy hour would increase underage drinking.

“I think the elimination of happy hours was one of the best public health moves in terms of underage drinking and young people drinking.”

The hearing was the fifth and final public hearing held this year by the ABCC. The commission is considering input from the hearings for its study on whether to amend the happy hour ban, which it will submit to the governor and state legislature early next year.