Boston Restauranteurs Largely Against Lifting Happy Hour Ban

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

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.


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