State board: Happy hour regulations should not change despite free drinks at casinos

Looks like "happy hour" will not be returning to Massachusetts.
NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

You can finally stop holding your breath, college students.

“Happy hour” will not be coming to Massachusetts.

After a series of public hearings held throughout the state last year that sought input on a possible change to the state’s “happy hour” regulations to prevent “unfair competition” from future casinos, the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission issued its final report today.

The commission cited concerns over public safety as one reason why they were not recommending bringing back “happy hour.”

“The record of comments shows a clear and convincing concern that any change to the Happy Hour Regulation will have a negative impact on the public safety in the Commonwealth,” the commission wrote in its report.

When the expanded gambling bill was passed, it allowed for free drinks to be offered to patrons of the gaming establishment. The law also required the ABCC to examine whether that was negatively impact restaurants and bars who were prohibited from doing so. Commission members wrote that they found no basis for unfair competition.

“The Commission has found no factual basis and no basis compelled by applicable law to amend (the Happy Hour Regulation) in order to protect on-premises alcoholic beverages Licensees from unfair competition with proposed gaming establishments,” the report said.

During a hearing on the issue in August, most of the restaurant and bar owners in attendance opposed reinstating “happy hour” citing concerns about over consumption and a potential increase in new, inexperienced establishments seeking to cash in on it.

State Treasurer Steve Grossman, who oversees the ABCC, said he strongly supports the commission’s findings.

“Public safety was a key factor in conducting this review, and the overwhelming sentiment is that scaling back the Happy Hour Regulation would compromise the lives and well-being of the residents of the Commonwealth,” he said in a statement. “The Regulation is supported by bar and tavern owners, the law enforcement community, and public safety officials, who all believe that it has played a substantial part in preventing unthinkable tragedies.”



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