There’s No Happy Hour in Massachusetts

In the early 1980s, DUI accidents — particularly those involving youth — captured the nation’s attention, as lawmakers and parents searched for solutions. President Ronald Reagan signed a law in 1984 denying federal highway funds to states with drinking ages under 21 in an effort to stop drunken driving, but Massachusetts took it a step further by banning happy hour. Signed by then-governor Michael Dukakis, the ban had major support from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, as well as some bar owners, who believed it to be a necessary solution. Nearly 4 decades later, drunken driving deaths are down nationally, but the effectiveness of the law remains in question. In 2021, residents of Massachusetts pushed to bring back happy hour, but were met with little interest from House lawmakers. Those in favor of removing the ban pointed out that ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft made it easier for drinkers to get home without driving. Nevertheless, the ban remains in effect.