In 1913, the United States Navy had a free-time problem. As sailors grew antsy with the global shift towards World War I, the battleship USS Arkansas needed a way for its crew to blow off growing steam.

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
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There was no drinking on the ship, per Navy regulations, so they organized twice-weekly group recreational time for the end of the crew’s normal working day. The men would gather together for boxing and wrestling matches, dancing, and movies. The program was such a hit, it spread to other ships and lasted throughout the war. They called it “happy hour.”

Sport At Sea
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Happy hour would go on to it’s boozier manifestation as sailors returning home carried it a tad further during Prohibition – people would meet before dinner to have a few illegal drinks before heading to a restaurant.

Buying Drinks
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By the 1950s, happy hour was a common term for post-work, pre-dinner drinks. By the 1970s, bars and eating establishments used happy hour to lure customers in with deals on alcohol, but only for a certain period of time.

While we can celebrate happy hour all we want here in New York, if you head due east it’s a different story for two of our neighbors.

They’re With the Banned

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Both Massachusetts and Vermont have outlawed happy hour. They, along with ten other states, made hourly special alcohol deals illegal to prevent drunk driving, public nuisances, and overserving. Despite any preconceived notions of alcohol consumption in the state, Massachusetts was the first state in America to ban happy hour deals in 1984. That same year, the US military – inventor of the happy hour - banned the practice at on-base clubs.

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Some Massachusetts legislators tried to change the law earlier this year, but their bill is tabled indefinitely in “research.” 70% of state residents polled in July of 2021 said they want drink discounts to return.

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Other states that won’t allow discount tipples include Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah. Indiana is a weird outlier – restaurants and bars can’t have time-limited booze specials, but they can have all-day deals. Gives new meaning to the phrase “happy days are here again.”

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