This debate over whether happy hours should be banned, as they currently are in Illinois, has a clear answer: no. I have lived in states with happy hour. I currently live in a state that does not have them. I don’t see a discernible difference in people’s behavior after work. What happens here is food-based happy hours or evenings like $1 oysters that effectively do the same thing to get people in the door. The real issue here is with driving after going to happy hour. And that’s an important problem. But it’s also a manageable issue. First, a lot of people going to happy hour are going to be responsible citizens. Second, a lot of those people in a city like Chicago are already taking public transportation because driving into the heart of the city to go to work is unpleasant. Third, bartenders can be strict about how much they serve. Fourth, we know from a lot of experience that prohibitionist policies don’t work. We’ve all seen plenty of people at bars who are completely irresponsible no matter what the prices of drinks are. Offering a slightly lower drink price for a couple of hours is not going to radically change the number of people who are doing so.
I suppose in an ideal world, either nobody would need to drink at all or we would not have cars and free public transportation should shuttle us rapidly from place to place so that drunk driving would never be an issue. Neither of these things will ever happen. So given that, the question is how to manage it. Ultimately, if people want to get loaded, they are going to do so no matter what the state says about it. Promoting responsible drinking, training servers and bartenders to watch out for customers who are drinking too much, encouraging taxis and public transportation, and offering low-priced food to go along with the drinks are all policies that will encourage a positive result while also offering bars and restaurants a new line of business. I thought the opinion that suggested happy hours would help bars offset the likelihood of higher minimum wages was sensible and reinforces how we can create a policy that helps everyone here.
Again, none of this is dismissing the severe problem of drunk driving. But not allowing Illinois residents to go to a happy hour is not going to solve that problem.