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Is happy hour coming back to Massachusetts? Gov. Baker says it's not likely

2021-06-16-TAVERN-3

The happy-hour ban has been in place in Massachusetts for 38 years and will continue if Gov. Charlie Baker has his way, saying he will most likely veto the measure.

A measure that would allow cities and towns to revive happy hour within their borders would “most likely” receive Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto if it reached his desk, the governor said Monday, imperiling the fate of a controversial idea that remains tied up in legislative negotiations.

Supporters of moving away from the 38-year-old statewide ban on discounted drink promotions argue that the availability of on-demand rides through platforms like Uber and Lyft ease some drunken driving concerns, but Baker said he continues to believe happy hour is not “a good idea.”

“The simple truth of the matter is people got overserved a lot in the old days, and I believe people will continue to get overserved,” Baker said during an appearance on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio.” “There are consequences associated with that, and the consequences in many cases I don’t think justify or are worth the benefit that’s associated with, you know, 25-cent drinks.”

Massachusetts prohibited happy hour promotions in 1984 after a string of deadly drunk-driving accidents. The idea remains controversial among some groups, including the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, which urged lawmakers not to make any tweaks to the current system.

In July, the Senate tacked language onto its economic development bill that would allow cities and towns to opt in to offering discounted drink specials at restaurants, bars and other establishments.

Even if the House agrees to the measure and it features in a final version of the bill, it’s poised to run into the buzzsaw of Baker’s opposition during a string of informal-only sessions when the Democratic supermajorities cannot take the roll call votes they would need to override his veto.

Asked Monday if he would veto a local option happy hour, Baker replied, “Most likely.”

“Maybe this is just me being an old fuddy-duddy, but I think most places do just fine based on the current rules as they are,” Baker said.

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