Restaurant Group Sour On Happy Hour

Lawmakers Warn Credit Union Insurance Fees Could Rise

If lawmakers agree to send Gov. Charlie Baker’s bill to revive happy hour in Massachusetts cities and towns will do so in opposition to a powerful group in the state that represents some businesses that can get the chance to serve cheap drinks. special.

The Massachusetts Restaurant Association on Tuesday announced it opposes “anything” that would change the state’s 38-year-old happy hour ban, warning it would lead to “significantly higher” insurance costs for alcoholic beverages.

Stephen Clark, the group’s president and CEO, urged lawmakers debating the multibillion-dollar bill (H 5034 / S 3030) to drop the Senate’s proposed bill to allow cheap drinks in restaurants, bars and other urban venues. who have chosen.

“For the past four decades, public policy in Massachusetts has been in place. There has been no outcry from business to change the law. Who is asking for change and why?” “Of course, consumers want to pay less. Consumers can get two-for-one gas, two-for-one tickets, two-for-one whatever,” Clark wrote in a letter to assembly committee members working on the final bill if you ask them. Just because a consumer indicates that they want to have something doesn’t mean it makes sense for the business involved or the Commonwealth as a whole.”

Alcoholic beverage advertising has been banned in Massachusetts since 1984, a ban that lawmakers enacted after a series of drunk driving accidents drew widespread attention. Previous attempts to change the policy have spread to Beacon Hill, where some lawmakers — and Gov. Charlie Baker – remains relevant, although critics argue that the climate has changed.

Sen. Julian Cyr, a Truro Democrat who proposed a change in his chamber that added $4.57 billion to economic development, said that the spread of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft and the interest from the younger generations required a new approach.

“There’s been a trend in Massachusetts to rethink and move away from our puritanical attitudes when it comes to alcohol, when it comes to cannabis,” he said last week.

Reflecting on the days of the ban, Clark said happy hours allowed the competition for business to be “driven by bad guys running down the street” and forced restaurants to try to attract customers in front of “the bar on the side of the tree-lined street. .”

That left liquor insurance “very difficult to buy” and “very expensive,” Clark said. Some insurance carriers stopped selling in the Bay State, he said, prompting efforts to create the Liquor Liability Joint Underwriter’s Association “as a provider of last resort.”

“These days, alcohol insurance is cheap and regulated,” Clark said. “Going back to the old days will lead to higher costs for all.”

It’s unclear whether the measure will reach Baker’s desk. The House did not include any language for the holiday period in its economic development package, and top Democrats in the chamber have not said anything about whether they want to add it to the conference committee’s deliberations. Speaker Ron Mariano declined to comment on the topic late last week.

And even when the House gets around to pushing for the Senate, Baker and his veto pen act as opponents.

“We’ve had the worst years, the last few years that we’ve had, for the number of traffic deaths here in the Commonwealth that we’ve had for a long time. And most of them are single-vehicle accidents, often based on speed. We’ve passed a number of (a) safe and efficient highway regulations that haven’t gone anywhere,” Baker said Tuesday. “Without this legislation, I continue to doubt that we’ll be going back to the happy hour.”