A new bill sponsored by Cape & Islands Senator Julian Cyr could bring back "Happy Hour" in Massachusetts. "Happy Hour" was a practice by many local bars and restaurants throughout the Commonwealth that allowed for significantly cheaper drinks as a way to attract more business during off-peak hours.

Nearly 40 years ago, "Happy Hour" became illegal with the passage of a 1984 law by the Massachusetts legislature in an effort to curb drunk driving. During the discussion of "Happy Hour" on SouthCoast Tonight on Monday, many callers recounted the era of "Happy Hour" and a time when people were allowed to legally drink in their late teens. So when and why did Massachusetts set their drinking age to 21?

The production and consumption of alcohol in the U.S. is longstanding tradition and a point of pride for many Americans, for better or for worse. In fact, to this day, the only time a sitting president personally led a militarized effort was during the "Whiskey Rebellion" when American citizens rioted in protest of a tax on the distillation of whiskey.

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During the early days of settlers in the New World, Massachusetts and Rhode Island were a major manufacturer of rum, making up a third of the Commonwealth's commerce. The industry was tied up with the reprehensible "Triangle Trade" which included the importation of slaves from Africa to the West Indies in exchange for sugar to produce their rum.

In the mid-1800s, however, the Temperance Movement, which was a movement to persuade people to consume alcohol in moderation or to give it up entirely, began to pick up steam. Boston was a birthplace of the temperance movement, having been the founding location of The American Temperance Society in 1826. The organization began with 170,000 members and in 10 years grew to over 1.2 million.

The Temperance Movement, at the height of its powers, was able to achieve its ultimate policy goal: the prohibition of the sale and consumption of alcohol in the United States, which was made law by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and the Volstead Act.

Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933 when it was repealed by the 21st Amendment. At the end of Prohibition, the drinking age for Massachusetts was set at just 17 years old, before being raised to 21.

When the 26th Amendment was ratified, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, Massachusetts along with 29 other states in the Union decided that if you were old enough to vote, you were old enough to have an adult beverage and lowered its drinking age back to 18.

However, in 1979, following studies having shown that other states who lowered their drinking age had seen a correlative increase in fatal traffic accidents for people between the ages of 18-20, the Massachusetts legislature changed its drinking age to 20 in the spring of 1979.

Five years later, after the movement to curb the frequency of drunk driving accidents and related deaths picked up steam, Congress passed the National Minimum Age Drinking Act in 1984. The law reduced federal highway funding by 10 percent for states that didn't raise their drinking age to 21. Massachusetts quickly complied with the new national standard in December of 1984, both abolishing "Happy Hour" and setting the drinking age to 21.

Listen to Chris and Marcus discussion on Happy Hour with the Audience on SouthCoast Tonight:

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