Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Unhappy and happy hours, in Indiana and elsewhere.

I was in my early twenties when Indiana banned happy hours (discounts predicated on time of day) and favoritism in pricing (i.e., ladies night). Since then, it's been Happy Day or Bust in the Hoosier state. If someone is advertising dollar longnecks during the UFC bout, the same price must be charged two hours before.

When the law first took effect, I immediately lost interest in Indiana University basketball, because the Tumbleweed in New Albany had a game night promotion involving "dee-fense, dee-fense": If IU held the opposition to less than 60 points, there was an hour of 2-for-1 well drinks following the final whistle.

This was the era when Mothers Against Drunk Drivers actually had a strong case to make. In later years, MADD became a prohibitionist parody, but then ... yes. In an auto-centric milieu like ours in Southern Indiana, it's simply insane to stage specials like these.

In hindsight, it's regrettable that food-based happy hours never caught on. We used to go to the long defunct Chi Chi's in Clarksville for happy hour margaritas, and when the law changed, the restaurant had a cheap food buffet instead. The cost to the consumer worked out about the same, but evidently there was no traction.

Mapping the United States of Happy Hours, by Aarian Marshall (City Lab)

Some cities are straight-up bacchanalian. Others, not so much.

Imagine this: You trudge off the plane at O’Hare, cranky and disheveled—but luckily, it’s beer time.

Not so fast: Five o’clock brings no discount drinks in the Chicago. In fact, happy hours—time-specific discounts on alcohol—are forbidden in the entire state of Illinois. That is, unless the governor finally signs into law the bill passed earlier this month that would allow bars and restaurants to set reduced drink prices for a portion of the day.

 ... Why are the laws so different in different cities? Many bans were implemented in the 1980s when citizen groups led by Mothers Against Drunk Driving presented state legislatures with some scary statistics.

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