Happy Hour Not So Happy

Since moving out to the East coast, I’ve been trying to experience as many new things as I can. Of course, this would include visiting all of the local establishments to determine which bar was best.

I quickly found that Boston is one of the more expensive cities than any other that I have been to. I’m not sure if the restaurants know what other places charge for a Jägerbomb, but I think $12.50 is a little steep no matter where you are. In amidst of this revelation, I’ve been looking for cheaper alternatives and still enjoy an evening out. Well, here’s where things get interesting!

Massachusetts has outlawed Happy Hours for almost 30 years. I’ve seen some bars get around this, by offering “Until We Run Out” or “$2 before 7PM” for domestic or import beers, but other than that all “Happy Hours” are only food specials.

This basically means that restaurants and bars are not allowed to offer a discounted drink price that varies over a calendar week. This is why the article I read on the subway today inspired me to write down my thoughts.

The article outlined the proposal for Happy Hours to exist in Massachusetts. This really stemmed from the application of a horse track in North Boston to open up a casino. Many restaurateurs expressed opposition to this new proposal saying that it would lead to over consumption and unfair competition. Let’s dissect each issue.

Argument 1: Unfair Competition

Bar and restaurant owners feel that if Massachusetts allows Happy Hours, then it would create unfair competition.

“If Happy Hour regulations are eased, some owners said they would be forced to offer discounted drinks to compete and it would be a “race to the bottom” in the industry.”

Since when is competition a bad thing? I studied marketing in college and actually feel like lower prices will actually boost profits for each restaurant and bar.

For example, a bar could possibly have 100 patrons order 100 drinks for $6 without a happy hour -or- with advertising a happy hour have 200 patrons order 200 drinks for $4. This second option would yield $800 instead of $600. I’m not saying that Happy Hours guarantee more patrons into the bar, but it would give a reason for people to visit their establishment.

A neighborhood bar in Cambridge said that he had no use for happy hours.

“I don’t see any sense in selling stuff for half price,” he said.

Of course, right! Why would any bar or restaurant owner agree to cut their prices and offer a happy hour. I bet you won’t find one owner that will lobby for the ease in happy hour regulations. I believe the real reason for this opposition is because bar owners want to charge the most they can for a drink and don’t want to be undercut by another bar selling discounted drinks. This argument doesn’t appear to have much substance because some of the main reasons people go to the bars is because of the experience. If that other bar is giving the same experience and service for cheaper, isn’t that just good business?

I’m not saying that every night should be discounted, but wouldn’t it make sense to offer happy hours or discounted prices during slow times to bring in more business?

Argument 2: Over Consumption

The other issue that appeared to be of concern is the increase in drunken driving and public safety. This is actually an ongoing issue if you choose to support Happy Hours or not.

I believe people need to be trusted to make the right decision. While I do agree that happy hours would increase the likelihood of people being drunk, it does not necessarily increase the chance of a drunken driving accident.

The two main arguments by restaurant and bar owners are pretty weak to stand on. Keeping away competition is just a way to allow them to charge as much as they can for drinks. The public safety issue is valid, although, there are still going to be people who drink and drive wherever they are.

There is an alternative to going to a bar that doesn’t have a happy hour – walk to the nearest liquor store and buy a bottle. If a person wants to drink and drive, unfortunately they will do it, regardless of price.