Monday, January 25, 2016

Will the institution of Happy Hour return to Hoosier shores?

I was in my early twenties when Indiana banned the promotional practice of happy hours (alcoholic beverage discounts predicated on time of day) and also favoritism in pricing (i.e., ladies night).

Since then, it's been "Happy Day or Bust." If an establishment is advertising dollar longnecks during the UFC bout, the same price must be charged for as long as the bar is open on that particular business day.

Might this be about to change?

Indiana bill would bring back happy hour, at the Indianapolis Star

Justin Mack and IndyStar beverage reporter Amy Haneline talk about pending legislation that would remove the state's ban on happy hour.

As I've pointed out on numerous occasions, the Republican Party in Indiana, while monolithic, has its bizarre familial quirks. Among them are differences in outlook, albeit generally muted for public consumption, between the party's Rand Paul wing of wide open libertarian deregulation, and purely theocratic elements which would happily remove all vestiges of secular government at the drop of a holy book.

These camps seem to take turns calling the tune, and yet it's hard for me to imagine the happy hour ban being reversed. Apart from the religious-based prohibitionists, there will be significant opposition on the opposite side of the aisle from the same tired health fascists -- plus, some semblance of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers still exists, and I remember all too well its clout when lobbying for the ban the first time around. MADD has descended into parody in recent years, though it remains feisty.

A base, happy hour doesn't strike me as sufficiently important to get tourism and economic development lobbies involved; besides, they're still busy trying to soften the impact of the RFRA fatwa.

Back when the happy hour ban first took effect, I immediately lost interest in Indiana University basketball. 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 followed an hour of 2-for-1 well drinks after the final whistle. So much for that.

In hindsight, it's regrettable that food-based happy hours never really 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, and as a trencherman, I like it, 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 ... 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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