SouthCoast Bar Staff, Patrons Want to See a Return of ‘Happy Hour’
Nearly 40 years ago, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis was pouring it on to become the next President of the United States.
At the time, the tragic death of 20-year-old Kathleen Barry of Braintree troubled him and motivated him to get behind a bill that disbarred "Happy Hour," the sale of discounted alcoholic drinks. The after-work specials attracted customers with free appetizers with the purchase of a drink, or other kinds of incentives to get the empty afternoon barstools filled.
In 1984, the Commonwealth joined other states in a concerted effort to stop Happy Hour, amid a national movement, backed by the powerful Mothers Against Drunk Driving lobby, to cut down on drunk-driving fatalities.
People change, life changes. Time also changes things, and almost four decades has changed the attitude of how residents feel about restoring Happy Hour. A new @MassINC poll shows that 70 percent of Massachusetts residents support allowing bars and restaurants to offer discounted after-work drinks.
This turnabout is reflected in new legislation by State Rep. Mike Connolly (D), who wants to breath new life into ways that offer deliverance to restaurants and bars heading for the rocks.
I recently visited some Fairhaven watering holes to see how people feel about a return of Happy Hour. Everyone I spoke with who remembered Happy Hour missed those days of cheap eats and drinks, and said they would like to see it come back, especially after the pandemic killed off most of the bar business.
"Definitely, bring Happy Hour back. It will be good for the people on both sides of the bar," quipped Jeanette, a regular at the Bayside Lounge, one of the most popular spots along Fairhaven's Sconticut Neck Road.
Julie, the busy alewife at the Bayside Lounge, said, "I come from Canada, where we've always had Happy Hour. It brings people together, and with all the loneliness that COVID has brought on people everywhere, they need to socialize and get back to the way things were before the virus." I couldn't find anyone to disagree with her.
Down the road, the Ice House Sports Bar, another very busy taproom, was jamming for lunch. Veda, a skilled ace behind the bar, was handling the crowd with ease.
"Bring it on! It will be fun," she said. "Next month, we're opening our new sushi bar here, and a Happy Hour would be the perfect compliment to it." Kathi, a customer who overheard us talking, said she'd definitely vote to bring back Happy Hour.
Gov. Charlie Baker, though, expressed his doubts, saying he'd be hard-pressed to support restoring Happy Hour. But other lawmakers are open to reconsidering the 40-year-old ban, while the new numbers show the vast majority of residents are open to returning to the days of Happy Hour specials as well.
Happy (Hour) days may soon be here again.