The Unhappy Side to NY State’s Illegal Happy Hours

An article found on Yahoo and attributed to ABC News says that Massachusetts has re-affirmed it’s ban on the practice of happy hour. The article points out that Kansas recently decided to allow it. The Boston Globe chimed in: "It was a horrific 1984 drunk driving fatality that resulted in the Massachusetts  happy hour prohibition: a woman in Braintree was killed by a driver who had consumed seven beers at a happy hour event…" There-in lies the rub. Although everyone who imbibes loves a cheap drink or 2-for-1 special, the law is there to save lives.

Most pedestrians and some operators would be surprised that New York State does not allow happy hours and "drink specials."  Liquor laws are regulated by the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) which issues licenses. The City of New York is not involved. Rules concerning dancing and building code and hours of operation are city matters. Sometimes licenses are issued with 2am caps because of pressure from community groups, but the SLA overrides. In the city, it’s hard to believe that we are part of a state where people live in suburban or rural municipalities. Here, people might easily down multiple drinks after work and hit the road in bad shape. Happy hours are thought to put thousands of drunk drivers on the road at peak driving times. It makes sense. Happy hours thrive all over town. 

Another common practice that is outlawed is the "open bar." New York State prohibits free booze or one-price-for-unlimited liquor events. That’s every New Year’s Eve event. This can sometimes be circumvented by making it a private party with special event permits, and by doing all sorts of tricks to get around the rules, but most places just do it without a thought. Open bars are advertised and promoted and commonplace. 

Somewhere down the line, someone is going to get in trouble. As my mom used to say, "it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt." A horrific accident or some sort of trouble or brawl will focus attention once again on the regulations. 

Frog Legs, Pigeon, & $1 Oysters: Maison Premiere’s Chef Lisa Giffen Leads The Way

On the south end of Bedford Ave., a line is forming. Every weekday at 3:30pm, crowds are making their quiet shuffle to the Grand St. corner, where they await their aphrodisiac fix at a price that can’t be cheaper: $1 oysters from Maison Premiere.

"There’s a line outside right now," says Lisa Giffen, Maison’s executive chef. "We begin each week with towers of oysters, and it’s shocking how quickly it’s all eaten."

At Maison, seafood is the star of the show – and at the happy hour alone – from 4pm to 7pm every weekday – 20 kinds of oysters are for the slurping at a price that’s less than a box of paper clips. The oysters are so highly regarded (and respected), they require their own car ride when they’re picked up from the airport five times a week. 

But bivalves aren’t the only ones attracting attention at the old-world New Orleans and hotel lobby-inspired spot. Ever since Lisa joined the team a year ago, she’s transformed Maison – which has its own brass absinthe fountain –  from a seafood and absinthe den, to a full-on restaurant with a large-plate menu, packed with pigeon, frog legs, black cod, and rabbit.

"We found that people really wanted to eat here after they drank at the bar, so we made sure to meet that demand," Lisa says. "Our Tasting Menu is our biggest hit."

The Tasting Menu – a five-course, $95 meal – begins with a tower of raw oysters, and ends with a sprawling, dessert finale of spiced rhubarb shortcake bites, cheesecake, rum baba, and madelines.

"Fifty percent of the people who get the Tasting Menu come back for it a second time," Lisa says. "I swear, it’s the dessert array."

But of greater surprise is Lisa’s own path to leading the kitchen of Maison. Her first job after college was doing sales for Sharpie markers.

"I started moonlighting in kitchens on the side and did a program at ICE," she says. "Finally, I realized I spent more time cooking than I did doing the work I was paid to do, so I made the move. But learning to manage a team of people – from the porter who washes the dishes that the food goes on, to the guy who peels onions all day long – have followed me since."

And while Lisa wrangles the kitchen staff downstairs, the waiters and bartenders tend to the guests upstairs who, on occasion, get engaged, celebrate anniversaries, and break-up at the bar and in the outside garden.

But at a place serving mostly oysters, expect mostly romance.

"Oysters are an aphrodiasc," says Lisa. "But alcohol is, too."

Lisa Giffen

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Lady Liberty & Creamy Milkshakes: Table Green Café Opens In Battery Park

Do you like gazing at the Statue of Liberty by the water?  Scooping spoonfuls of Blue Marble’s organic, rich ice cream into your mouth?  Washing it all down with a cool iced coffee? Then perhaps you’re a good fit to become one of Table Green Café’s prized customers. The Battery Park kiosk – open now – lures you in with its homemade cookies, creamy milkshakes, and muffins – but keeps you there with its spot on the southern-most tip of Manhattan and sparkling view of Lady Liberty and the classic Staten Island Ferry. 

Table Green Café is the miniature version of its neighbor Table Green – which offers savory snacks like flaky, grass-fed pig-in-a-blankets, organic ham and cheddar sandwiches, and a weekday, 5pm-6pm, $6 beer and $8 wine happy hour.

First stop: ice cream. Last stop: beer. Sounds like summer.

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A Love Letter To The $4 Sliders At Lobster Joint

Dear Sliders,

It was a Tuesday on the Lower East Side, 7pm, when I met you for the first time.

I was wandering alone—as many New Yorkers do—but I wasn’t lost; I was in pursuit. Not of a date, a new sweater, or even companionship; I was looking for a really delicious, no-frills, low-cost meal. And like most things, when you really search for something, you find it. And I found it in you.

I had heard about the recent opening of Lobster Joint in the LES and, not trying to sound boastful or anything, knew they had become a very big deal. So when I looked up, wide-eyed at the Lobster Joint’s signage out front, and the picnic tables and bar seating inside, I knew this was the place for me.

When I arrived at the register, the cashier informed me that I was lucky; just a minute past 7pm, I still made the cut for the Happy Hour special:
$4 sliders.
$4 lobster, crab cake, or fried oyster sliders.
“What did you say?” I asked the cashier.
“The sliders. They’re $4.”  

And that’s when something happened.

My eyes dilated, my face flushed, and I realized I was walking headfirst into a love affair with a crustacean-packed mini sandwich.

When your lobster and fried oyster-filled self arrived to my seat at the bar, I took a picture to capture the memory and devoured you without any class or sense that others were probably watching the girl by herself at the bar shoveling fresh seafood and buttered buns into her mouth.
When I finished, the cashier said, “You know, you can get those every Monday through Friday if you come in between 4pm and 7pm.” I tried to act all nonchalant, like, “Oh cool, sure, if I have the time…”

But inside I was dancing. Because now, every weekday after work is an opportunity to see you, devour you, and then formulate when I can see you again.

So, till next time, Sliders.

Yours truly,

Do you know a dish in NYC that’s worthy of a love letter? Let me know at or tweet @ me here.

Los Angeles Opening: Ammo at the Hammer Museum

Though the name sounds like a ’70s progressive rock band, Ammo at the Hammer is the Hammer Museum’s latest addition: a cafe.

The first outpost of Amy Sweeney’s legendarily hip Highland Avenue restaurant, this Ammo offers seasonal sandwiches, market salads, and a generous happy hour – all of which can be enjoyed in the museum’s bright, tree-lined courtyard, which the café spills into. Perfectly in synch with the museum’s new Hammer Contemporary Collection (Kara Walker, Ed Ruscha, Barbara Kruger, etc), the Ammo is styled by LA design collective Commune, and is open for lunch, brunch, through happy hour now, with extended hours expected by December. 


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