If you live in a state where happy hour is legal, pat yourself on the back and consider pouring one out for your Massachusetts cocktail-loving brethren. Lawmakers had been flirting with the idea of repealing the state’s 29-year ban on happy hour, but from the sound of it, regulators think it would be a bad idea for both businesses and the public’s safety.
Happy hour is banned in many other states, but Massachusetts was one of the first to do so. The state banned the promotional drinking periods in 1984 after a woman was killed by a drunk driver who’d had seven drinks at a happy hour event.
While some states are loosening up on such restrictions — like Kansas, which repealed its ban recently — regulators in Massachusetts don’t think bringing it back is a good move, reports The Boston Globe.
Lawmakers had been toying with the idea as a way to appease liquor license holders who are trying to compete with casinos that offer free alcoholic beverages to customers.
But allowing happy hour again wouldn’t help restaurants fight competition from casinos, says a recent report from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.
Instead, it found that restaurant owners would be more concerned with a “race to the bottom” where businesses would undercut each other’s prices to the point where they’d lose money.
“It was kind of this false premise that if you allowed restaurants to have happy hours it would level the playing field [with casinos],” Massachusetts Restaurant Association President Stephen Clark said. “But restaurants can’t subsidize free drinks like casinos.”
Instead, the office of the Treasury, which oversees the ABCC, says the ban is necessary to protect the state’s citizens.
“I think it has served us well, and I think it is a very important public safety issue,” said Treasurer Steven Grossman. “I am fully supportive of [the report’s] conclusions.”