Massachusetts may be known for its bar culture, but one thing it isn’t known for is its unbeatable happy hour specials. That’s only because happy hours have been legally banned in the state since 1984. A new amendment passed by the state senate could bring happy hours back to Massachusetts bars for the first time in decades, but not everyone is thrilled by that prospect.
The New York Times reports that this proposal to bring back happy hour laws – itself an amendment added to a bill allowing casinos in Massachusetts, giving bars and restaurants the same rights to specials and promotions that those new casinos and gaming facilities would have – has sparked a whirlwind of debate among politicians in the state.
Michael Dukakis, the former governor of Massachusetts who first approved the happy hour ban back in 1984 to combat drunk driving, has come out strongly against the amendment. “Unquestionably, people will lose their lives if this happens,” Dukakis told the press.
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On the other side of the argument, current Senator Robert L. Hedlund – who is also the owner of Four Square Restaurant & Bar, making this particular amendment especially near and dear to this senator’s heart – argues that the current ban is puritanical and that the burden of reckless driving should be covered by tough drunk driving laws, not preemptive strikes against happy hour promotions. “We have the most restrictive laws in the country on drink promotion except for Utah, a Mormon state,” said Hedlund. He has also gotten Mothers Against Drunk Driving on his side – it’s reported that, while they’re not exactly cheering on anything involving alcohol, they aren’t fighting the amendment either.
But, while the amendment passed in the senate, even Hedlund acknowledges that there’s a good chance it won’t pass future legislation sessions. As such, he is also campaigning for the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission to at least spend the next year examining alcohol regulations in Massachusetts and suggest some recommendations of their own so that everyone can reach a compromise. “We’re not asking for free booze or happy hour,” said Hedlund. “We’re asking for them to look at some of the flaws that exist in the regulations.”
The NY Times also reports that not every Massachusetts bar owner is even that crazy about lifting a ban on happy hour specials – “I don’t see any sense in selling stuff for half price,” one owner told the paper.