Should Massachusetts Bring Happy Hour Back?


    Written By: Chris Haddad

    Happy hour is a span of a few hours where drinks are discounted up to 50- 75 percent off at bars and restaurants. This marketing tactic, is a way to draw in a large crowd to spend money on more than just drinks. You may be familiar with the phrase “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” when deciding to start drinking earlier on in the day. The phrase uses 5 o’clock referring to the time happy hour usually starts, but in Massachusetts its rarely ever “5 o’clock”.

    Boston natives are used to the non-existent Happy Hour, but being in the minority of states without discounted drinks, many visitors to the area are usually caught off guard when they are asked to pay full price for their vodka soda at 5 o’clock. What many people don’t realize, is that Massachusetts used to have a happy hour, however due to a tragic accident, a law was put in place to ban discounted drinks.

    According to the writers at Wicked Local, the statewide ban was put in place in 1984 after a fatal accident that occurred:

    “In September 1983, a 20-year-old woman from Weymouth died after she was pinned under a car at a former Ground Round in Braintree. The driver, another young woman and a friend of the victim, had consumed at least seven beers in two-and-a-half hours at the restaurant. At least two of the beers were given to her for free as prizes in a name-that-song trivia contest… The ensuing fervor over whether the restaurant’s license should be suspended brought the incident to the attention of the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which then floated the idea of a statewide “happy hour” ban.”

    Since the tragedy, Boston has adapted to paying and charging full price – for at least one week. Many natives wouldn’t know the difference of not having a happy hour if they have never traveled outside of Massachusetts, therefore many bar-goers don’t even blink an eye at spending anywhere from $7-$12 on a drink. Ignorance is bliss, right?

    One things for sure, restaurants and bars aren’t ignorant and they know people are attracted to a good deal. So although happy hour on drinks is out of the question, happy hour deals on food isn’t against the rules. Another loophole to the law is having a set low price on drinks all the time. As mentioned in our previous blog  “Are Boston Bars Really More Expensive?”  a good amount of bars in the city and outside the city have set low prices, such as Coogans and An-Tain that offer $1 Bud light drafts all the time. These set low prices may be an upside to not having a happy hour, $1 drafts at all times of the day isn’t exactly a bad thing. Bars and restaurants choose these alternatives to draw in the crowd they otherwise wouldn’t have due to the Happy Hour ban.

    What are your thoughts? Should Massachusetts bring happy hour back? It sure has been talked about with state officials, although very unlikely anything will happen anytime soon. Use #HappyHourMA and join the conversation!



    S.J. Torres
    S.J. Torres launched Dirty Water News in 2011. In writing and editing for Dirty Water Media, S.J. combines his innovative style and energy with years of nightlife experience. He has been an instrumental influence in the Boston nightlife scene since managing Daisy Buchanan at the start of his career and ultimately becoming an owner of Howl at the Moon and Down Ultra Lounge.




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