For the times that most of us are in bars and taverns, it is nice to not smell of smoke when you leave, and it seems most businesses have survived, despite the early warnings. But reports that the city is considering banning “happy hour” specials may be impossible to bring to fruition.
People have brought to court the issue that “ladies’ night” specials were sexist or discriminatory, but for the most part, a lot of that falls on state law, and New York has pretty lax state laws in regard to selling alcohol compared to other states.
What is not legal is giving alcohol away for free, even though some places try to get around that with certain specials. However, selling alcohol at a discount for a select period of time may be hard to crack down on for a government agency.
Let us say that a fancy hot spot lowers the prices for their drinks for a period of time, but by lowering them, the drinks are still on a par with the prices at most other bars. Is that really a discount? If a glass of scotch is $15 in one place, and $7 in another, is getting half off at 4 p.m. at the expensive place any different?
The city is right to be thinking about these things. The Department of Health needs to explore ways to have fewer people visit emergency rooms, and this is how that starts. Not every idea needs to become a law, but we want them to be thinking about drugs and alcohol in all sorts of ways.
But until there is a law, it is simply brainstorming on how to solve a problem. It’s not too much government, until it is too much government.
Bars in the city have gotten great at staying tightly within the law in regard to serving minors, and few bars try to get around the non-smoking laws, although I have seen a few in Queens and Brooklyn that have not enforced it. Likewise, the state tried to ban the idea of the pub-crawl years ago, as a means to keep people from hopping from bar to bar and getting very drunk.
All of this falls on the bartenders’ shoulders, and another law would burden them even more. The New York economy has gotten to a point where job paths are limited. You either work some place in government, some place in a cubicle, or in the service industry. There is no reason to put added pressure right now on that large of a portion of the workforce.
The idea of limiting “happy hour” specials, however, is an exercise in futility. A little financial break now and then is what people have grown to look for in all kinds of consumerism. The real concern is for the bar and restaurant workers, who should not have to worry about losing any more business to a struggling economy.
Now is not the time for this law, but maybe in the future it may be a better fit. Happy days may not be here again – not yet, anyway. But happy hours can still live on for a little while.