Editorial, Opinion

STAFF EDIT: Not so happy hour

Debate has resurfaced in Massachusetts over the proposed amendment to the ban on happy hours in restaurants and bars. The amendment to the ban, which was passed 27 years ago under former Gov. Mike Dukakis’s term, recently went through the State Senate, although its ultimate passage is rather doubtful.

Nevertheless, the proposal has sparked controversy once more over happy hour, especially in light of the passage of a bill allowing casinos in Massachusetts. These casinos would be allowed to give customers free or discounted alcoholic beverages as a part of promotional marketing techniques, and the proposed amendment to allow the same in bars and restaurants is motivated by an attempt to maintain equality and allow them to compete fairly with casinos.

The original ban on happy hours was established in order to curb rising incidents of drunk driving in Massachusetts, and many of its advocates are outraged that the legislature is even considering amending it, according to an article in The New York Times.

Despite its noble aim, the ban on happy hour seems a bit excessively cautious in addition to being somewhat ineffectual. Happy hour will always be happy hour, regardless of discounts or promotions, simply because of ingrained societal tradition. People are still going to drink. And some of those people are still going to drive.

Without a doubt, drunk driving remains a huge issue in Massachusetts, but a ban on happy hour does not seem like the most effective way to curb those incidents. The legislature should focus on stricter regulations or harsher punishments for drunk drivers. They could increase police enforcement. A myriad of methods exist to fight against drunk driving, none of which need to include placing certain businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Given the state of our economy, the last thing the Massachusetts government should be restricting is new business opportunities or marketing techniques for struggling establishments.

According to State Sen. Robert Hedlund, Massachusetts has the most restrictive laws on drink promotion except for the Mormon state of Utah, and he has a point. Massachusetts still implements absurd laws that ban practices like drinking outside, among other things.

At this point, our legislators should consider the needs of local businesses. Excessively micro-managerial laws like the ban on happy hour do nothing but quash business opportunities. The law’s intentions are pure, but there are better ways to go about ensuring safety than at the expense of a bar’s revenue.

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