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.