MA Alcohol Control Board Says No to Happy Hour

The Massachusetts board overseeing alcoholic beverages released a report this week recommending the state keep its longstanding ban on “happy hour” deals in bars and restaurants. 

The 2011 law legalizing casino gambling also permits future casinos to offer free drinks to its customers on the gambling floor. As part of the law, the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) was charged with studying whether the state should lift the ban on happy hour. The idea was to level the playing field for bars and restaurants that might compete with casinos for customers. Happy hour, which allows bars and restaurants to offer free or discounted drinks, has been banned in Massachusetts since 1984. 

State Treasurer Steven Grossman, whose department oversees the ABCC, says the commission held five public meetings across the state last fall, including one in Northampton, and the reaction by business owners and law enforcement officials to lifting the happy hour ban was overwhelmingly negative.

“To go back to the era in which there were happy hours, free or discounted drinks, would be a race to the bottom, would be unwise, would be actually harmful to the business interests of the bars and restaurants, and pouring establishments.”

Grossman also says the testimony was nearly unanimous in arguing that bringing back happy hour deals would threaten public safety. The commission’s report was submitted to Governor Deval Patrick and the legislature. Grossman says the legislature could still choose to change the happy hour law, but says that’s unlikely.