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Bay State may raise its glass to ‘Happy Hour’

Due to Mass. State Senator Robert Hedlund's sponsoring of a casino bill amendment, "happy hour" may be allowed again in Boston bars like the Island Creek Oyster Bar. AMANDA SWINHART/DFP Staff

After almost 30 years, Happy Hour may be making a comeback in the Bay State, allowing establishments to serve up free alcoholic beverages to thirsty patrons.

After voting to allow casinos to offer free alcoholic drinks to customers, the Mass. State Senate sponsored a proposal that would allow free or discounted drinks at restaurants and bars across the state, according to a State House press release.

The proposal would apply to all restaurants in Boston in the possession of a liquor license, which amounts to over 100 establishments in the city.

It would also repeal a state regulation that has prevented bars and restaurants from offering drinks at lower prices during “Happy Hour” to customers since 1984.

However, according to the release, the proposal would limit the number of complimentary drinks offered to patrons, following in accordance with the recently created Gaming Commission from an approved bill on gambling details.

Potential casinos would be allowed to serve complimentary alcoholic beverages between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m., according to the statement.

The Gaming Commission would determine which forms of identification servers would be permitted to accept. Servers would also be required to go through an alcohol-training program.

Sen. Robert Hedlund, of Weymouth, is a restaurant owner who backed the amendment. He said in the press release that while he personally does not agree with the concept of “Happy Hour,” he wants to foster fair competition between restaurant and bars.

“This would try to keep the playing field level for those existing business here that employ people in the commonwealth,” he said, according to the release.

With bipartisan backing, the amendment passed 25 to 13, however it must pass in the House of Representatives before it is applied.
Allowing food and drink establishments to have free or discounted drinks during a certain time slot may hold ramifications for an industry that has criticized legislative policies in recent years, according to the release. These include the hiking of meals taxes and restrictions on pharmaceutical companies taking doctors out to dinner.

Senate president Therese Murray said that discrepancies in the House might slow down the amendment from passing. She said that she did not know if the House would agree to the proposition.

“It’s got a long way to go. We have conference committee in front of us,” she said in the release.

Sen. Stephen Brewer, chair of Senate Ways and Means, said that the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission creates rules and regulations relative to alcohol consumption and said he thinks they will “act accordingly,” in the statement.

Peter Hardenbrook, the manager at Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar & Grill, said that the restaurant already offers specials on draft beers. The restaurant would probably not take up a significant Happy Hour, even if it becomes legal.

“We prefer a different kind of approach,” Hardenbrook said in an interview.

He said that the bar takes advantage of the fact that it is still legal to discount beverages, just not for a set time limit.

Hardenbrook also said that “Happy Hour” encourages behavior that can harm a neighborhood setting.

“This is people’s neighborhood,” he said. “Our goal isn’t to have [people in] the area come down and pound drinks.”

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