For Immediate Release - January 31, 2013

ABCC Transmits Happy Hour Findings to Governor, Treasurer and Legislature

With an Emphasis on Public Safety, Report Recommends Maintaining Existing Regulation

The Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) today issued its formal report to the Governor, Legislature and Treasurer Steven Grossman on the impact of potential changes to the state’s Happy Hour Regulation, which prohibits clubs, bars and restaurants from reducing the price of alcohol during specific time periods.  The report urged that the present regulation and prohibition be maintained.

The report was the culmination of feedback received at five public hearings held last year in Bridgewater, Chelmsford, Worcester, Boston, and Northampton.  The overwhelming consensus expressed at these hearings was that a change in the existing regulation would not only substantially compromise public safety, but would also result in a poor climate in which businesses would operate.  Testimony and comments on the matter were offered by liquor licensees, public safety officials, and public interest groups, among others.

“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,” said Treasurer Grossman.  “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.”

The ABCC review was prompted by a provision in state law that permits free drinks to be served at proposed gaming establishments in Massachusetts and the potential competitive disadvantage that this provision might pose to other businesses that serve alcohol.  The report emphasized that such drinks would only be served to patrons who are in gaming establishments. In a traditional gaming setting these drinks are most often offered to patrons who are actively engaged in gaming so this service would have little impact on competition.  The report also highlighted the concerns heard repeatedly during the public hearings that a loosening of the Regulation would substantially compromise public safety.

“The Commission conducted extensive research and sought comment from the hospitality industry throughout the Commonwealth,” said Chairman Kim Gainsboro. “Each hearing showcased the dedication and commitment to community on the part of small business owners and after reviewing comments pertaining to economic fairness and public safety we feel that we have provided the Governor, Treasurer and the Legislature with a complete and accurate report.”

"Massachusetts Restaurant Association (MRA) members from around the state turned out at these hearings,” said Peter Christie, President and CEO of the MRA. “Their testimony clearly shows that they do not want to return to the days of giving away alcohol. We want to thank the ABCC and Treasurer Grossman for their diligence in this process."

The Happy Hour Regulation was promulgated by the ABCC in 1984.  Grossman said that he strongly supports the findings of the ABCC report, and he urged the Legislature to avoid measures to diminish the impact of the Happy Hour prohibition.

A copy of the ABCC’s report is attached.