Boston Restauranteurs Largely Against Lifting Happy Hour Ban

“Happy hour is a very bad thing for our industry," says one.

CORRECTION: The position of the Restaurant and Business Alliance was misrepresented in the previous version of this article. Their true position is reported below.

The state's alcohol control board is looking at but Massachusetts restauranteurs are largely against the idea. 

About two dozen of them showed up to a hearing on the topic in Boston Tuesday, and all but one spoke against legalizing cheap drinks.

"The majority of them were in favor of maintaining the happy hour ban," Jon Carlisle, spokesman for the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, told Patch.

What the board heard in Boston largely mirrors what it has heard in other parts of the state at the three previous hearings on happy hour, Carlisle said.

Happy hour, or a period of time in which bars or restaurants offer free or discounted drinks, was banned 28 years ago because many said it encouraged binge drinking and drunken driving. 

And it seems that restauranteurs have been happy with the ban. Some say that lifting it would weaken the already-thin margins bars operate under, and others say it puts bars in danger of overserving customers. 

"Happy hour is a very bad thing for our industry," Austin O’Connor, who owns Ned Devine’s, the Green Briar, the Harp and M.J. O’Connor’s, said, according to the Boston Herald. "Happy hour only encourages overconsumption."

And one restaurant group, the Restaurant and Business Alliance, would like the rules modified. "We support limiting drink specials," Executive Director Vincent Errichetti told Patch.

"We've always said we were against happy hour. Drink specials can go on for seven days, and we just don't think that that's responsible at all. That means that it's straddling Friday, Saturday and Sunday. My members don't want it, they never have wanted that. We want to see that reduced and limited," he said.

When the casino bill was being debated in the State House, the alliance was concerned about a level playing field, meaning that casinos would not be able to offer free drinks – but not meaning that happy hour would come back to bars. 

It's not giving away alcohol that restauranteurs think will stimulate their business. "What we would like to see is a meals-tax holiday to help the restaurant industry," Errichetti said.

The state's alcohol board will conclude its public hearings Sept. 18 in Northampton and submit a written report of its recommendations by June 30 to the governor, treasurer and Legislature. 

So far, the alcohol board has only heard from restauranteurs and public safety groups, he said.

MarkBoston August 22, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Being in the industry as well .. I have to agree that this is a bad idea for Boston .. too many students that cant handle drinking as it is !
Brian McCaffrey August 23, 2012 at 12:37 PM
What is the lowest price a bar can legally sell a drink for?
Brian McCaffrey August 23, 2012 at 03:16 PM
No one took the bait. OK. So, here goes: the price and safety equation doesn't hold water for me. Can't people just buy 30-packs at the liquor store at "Happy Hour", drink 20 beers, and go drive around running over kids and senior citizens? I think the industry is being pretty clear that it is seeking price fixing so it can protect its margins. I wish the printing industry could get the government to pass laws that would protect printers' profit margins. Why does the booze biz get special treatment?
Whit August 23, 2012 at 05:25 PM
This is nonsense. Of course the "Restaurant Industry" doesn't want to have to add a new level of competition to their problems. They want every restaurant to be able to charge 10 to 12 bucks for a cocktail. Why would they want to change that? Why are they even bothering to hold a meeting about this. Did anyone think for a second that the board would approve this? It's too much to hope for. But I am still hoping. One day, we will have Happy Hour in Boston! We'll just have to throw more of the bums out of office, I guess.


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