Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Just Say NO

UPDATE Wednesday morning:
According to the venerable Daily Hampshire Gazette, the public sentiment expressed at the hearing last night was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the ban on Happy Hours in place. 

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission is having the final public hearing today in Northampton about whether the state should rescind "Happy Hour" regulations so bars can better compete with casinos.  Yes booze and gambling go together like pizza and beer.

Interesting how lines are drawn between proponents and opponents.  Folks who like to party (usually younger) are in favor because it reduces the cost of "fun" and gets you to start drinking earlier in the day; but the Massachusetts Restaurant Association is opposed because it would keep people in bars rather than restaurants, thus costing them profits. 

And then of course there's the moral opposition from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, those who know the pain of losing innocent loved ones simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and crossed paths with "a killer on the road."


Wig & Pen said...

Why reopen the happy hour conversation for the sake of parity/fairness among businesses?

Wasn't shutting down happy hours a stand-alone absolute public health/safety benefit?

Dr. Ed said...

I am in favor of "happy hour" because it would have the same unanticipated consequence that banning smoking in bars did -- in bringing in a different clientel, it can create enough of a critical mass to change a culture. And remember that this is statewide policy, Amherst can still ban happy hours (or the sale of alcohol itself) by local ordinance should it want to.

First, while it has been 30 years,the infamous Big Dan's Tavern Rape is the extreme example of the bar culture that we do not wish to have in this Commonwealth. For those too young to remember, a woman was gang raped on the pool table for two hours while patrons cheered and absolutely no one came to her assistance in any way. (She then stumbled out into the street, half naked, and a passing motorist stopped to help her and called police on her behalf.

This simply wouldn't happen at Amherst Brewing -- I'm not sure if it would merely be a barrage of urgent 911 calls or someone smashing a chair over the perp's head to end it there & then. I'm not going to say which I would do if I happened to see a woman I knew being raped as it will inevitably be misinterpreted, only that it does mean something to be a friend of mine.

More importantly, it would never get that far at ABC. There is a critical mass in a completely different direction and that sets the culture.

A second example is the ill-fated and quickly-abandoned idea of putting blood alcohol machines in bars so that patrons could blow into them and tell if they were over the limit or not -- they were removed when it instead became a contest as to who could get the highest "score" on the machine.

These people are already in the bars, and "happy hour" isn't going to bring any more of them. The problem drinker will find the money for his/her/its alcohol and as they are already drinking way more than they should, I doubt they could manage much more even if it were free.

Much like how banning smoking brought in people who otherwise wouldn't have been in the bars - and hurt the bar business because they didn't drink nearly as much either - what "happy hour" does is bring in young professionals, the people whom in an earlier time we called "YUPPIES."

It brings in groups from an office. It brings in groups of women (who would never go alone, and the set hour gives them a set time to meet there) and in bringing in the groups of women, it brings in groups of men.

"Happy Hour" is like the "Taste of Amherst" except that the food (i.e. beer & mixed drinks) is virtually identical in all the bars and you are sampling the culture and ambiance of the bar.

And "Happy Hour" ENDS and people drift home, not causing problems. It is the folk who linger for last call that tend to be the ones who do.

Other states have "Happy Hour" -- the District of Columbia does -- and I have never seen or heard of it being a problem.

Anonymous said...

It's always Unhappy Hour here on Larry's blog.

Anonymous said...

Ed you are indeed an idiot. If you ever lived in this town when there were happy hours you would know what people are talking about. Why do think you know something about everything. Why don't you just put your educated head back up your ass and shut the hell up and go away.

Gavin Andresen said...

Has anybody looked at whether or not drunk driving arrests/drunk and disorderly arrests went down when the happy hour ban was passed?

If a law is ineffective I think we should get rid of it (I realize I'm in the minority, and most people like to have feel-good-but-do-nothing laws-- again, I have no idea whether or not the Happy Hour law qualifies).

LarryK said...

A more important statistic: In 2010, the rate of drunk driving fatalities per 100,000 population was 3.3, representing a 64% decrease since 1982.

The Happy Hour Ban in Massachusetts was passed in 1984. And 23 other states followed suit.

I have to believe that has something to do with the significant drop in road fatalities nationwide.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Gavin:

Let's think about this a little more deeply.

Do you know how much time it takes for a police officer (or two) to process a single OUI arrest in Massachusetts? And, therefore, just how many police officers are available at "happy hour" to make arrests?

I know you love to make these facile comparisons, but there is only so much "up side" to the number of OUI arrests any single town police department can make.

In some urban communities in Massachusetts, the police simply don't make OUI arrests because THEN they wouldn't be available for long periods of time to be on patrol for 911 calls, violent crimes, and the like.

What if, instead of trying to rationalize our way out of things, we simply used our common sense, which tells us that when alcohol is made incredibly cheap and available, the amount of drinking (and drunkenness)goes up.

Or do we have to argue about this, too?

Anonymous said...

When are people going to realize that, in terms of the behavior they are called upon to confront, the police are vastly outnumbered in just about every town and city in the Commonwealth?

There's no danger of a police state. What we have is quite the opposite.

In the face of that kind of chronic public resource problem, shutting down happy hours is clearly "a stand-alone absolute public health/safety benefit."

Gavin Andresen said...

RE: "common sense" : common sense is often wrong, which is why I always try to look at data.

Common sense would tell us the sun revolves around us and the earth is flat. Common sense gave us prohibition, and look at how well THAT turned out.

If we're going to pass laws that go against the general "innocent until proven guilty" principle then I'd like to see evidence that they'll do some good.

Gavin Andresen said...

Ok, you sucked me in: raw data: http://www.alcoholalert.com/drunk-driving-statistics-massachusetts.html

Eyeballing it, it looks to me like drunk driving fatalities were pretty constant from 1982 to 1989, then dropped, and dropped again in 2005.

In 2005 "Melanie's law" was passed, looks like that was effective. So what happened in 1989?

Anonymous said...

Not to mention a correlation does not prove causation. A logical fallacy.

Not to mention far more importantly...

Section 408 of the Highway Safety Act authorized NHTSA (enacted in 1982, funds were available through FY 1994) to provide alcohol incentive grants to states that had certain laws and provisions covering the apprehension, conviction and rehabilitation of persons driving while impaired from alcohol or drugs"

The feds went to war with drinking and driving. Happy hour has little statistical significance when police properly enforce the law.

Dr. Ed said...

What if, instead of trying to rationalize our way out of things, we simply used our common sense, which tells us that when alcohol is made incredibly cheap and available, the amount of drinking (and drunkenness)goes up.

Or do we have to argue about this, too?

Yes, we do. The exact same argument was used to justify retaining the 55 MPH speed limit -- if the limit was raised to 65 MPH, the argument was, people would drive even faster than they already were.

In reality, average speeds dropped. The data is out there, look it up yourself.

Dr. Ed said...

So what happened in 1989?

Air Bags.

1989 is when we started to have enough cars with air bags for it to start making a difference in the fatalities across the board.