State lawmakers consider bill that could bring back ‘happy hour’

There’s a push from local lawmakers to bring happy hour back to Massachusetts, something prohibited in our state since 1984.
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 8:59 AM EDT
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NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - There’s a push from local lawmakers to bring happy hour back to Massachusetts, something prohibited in our state since 1984.

“I think we should definitely bring happy our back!” said Jennifer Wallace of Northampton.

Lawmakers on Beacon Hill considered new cocktail laws, including one that would reverse the long-standing ban on happy hour.

“Happy hour also provides another tool, albeit a small tool to help us kind of get our groove back, right? To help us be a more alluring, fun, attractive place to be,” said Senator Julian Cyr.

On Wednesday, the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure held a public hearing to discuss a bill that would allow cities and towns to decide whether or not they’d opt for bringing happy hour back.

Senator Julian Cyr proposed the bill. He said a lot has changed since the ban went into effect nearly 40 years ago, like the drinking age increasing from 18 to 21 and the creation of ride share apps like Uber and Lyft.

“Let us try to figure out how we can further enable spaces where people are able to come together, are able to see one another, to get off of our screens, to get away from our remote work,” said Cyr. “I just think happy hour is a tool that every other state in the country allows and enables and I think it’s high time Massachusetts follows suit.”

In 1984, happy hour came to an end here in Massachusetts following a string of fatal drunk driving accidents.

Now, Massachusetts is one of the only states in the country to ban the sale of discounted alcohol in bars and restaurants. People we spoke with said it’s about time happy hour comes back.

“I think you’re going to have more people coming out just for a drink or two but not so much heavy drinking like it would later at night,” said Wallace. “I think there’s more positives than negatives to it.”

However, others said they’re not so sure.

“I have some kind of mixed feeling about it,” said Ed Orzeschski. “I think I know why it stopped years ago but if it’s good for businesses to come back from COVID, then that’s good.”

When it comes to the worry of drunk driving, one resident told us he doesn’t think happy hour will play a big enough factor.

“I tend to think that the people who are careless about their alcohol consumption are not going to drink any more or less because there’s happy hour,” said Peter Weiss of Northampton.

The house also discussed other alcohol-related bills such as the sale of to-go cocktails at restaurants.