By Bob Katzen
The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee held a hearing on legislation that would allow cities and towns to permit restaurants that are licensed to serve alcohol to offer discounted prices on alcoholic beverages during dates and time periods specified by the city or town. The measure prohibits any alcohol from being discounted after 10 p.m.
Under current law, passed in 1984, restaurants have been prohibited from holding “happy hours” during which some alcoholic drinks are free or the price is reduced. The 1984 law was sparked by the September 1983 death of Kathleen Barry, a 20-year-old from Weymouth, when Barry and her friend won free pitchers of beer at a Braintree Ground Round. After leaving the bar, Barry and a friend climbed on top of a drunk friend’s car for a ride around a Braintree parking lot and Barry fell under the car and was dragged 50 feet to her death.
“Much has changed in Massachusetts since a happy hour ban was enacted in 1984,” said sponsor Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “The drinking age has long been settled at 21, stiff penalties have been established to deter drunk driving and ride hailing apps have become a popular way to safely get around on a night out. While alcohol-related offenses decline across the country and little compelling evidence exists linking happy hour with higher rates of alcohol-related DUIs, Massachusetts remains the last state in the country to have an absolute ban on happy hour. In the aftermath of COVID-19 and advent of remote work, happy hour is a tool that can help revitalize main streets and downtowns struggling for foot traffic. This legislation empowers municipalities to determine if they want to allow local restaurants to offer happy hour specials and decide if it is the right choice for their community.”