Depending on who you listen to, the tradition of happy hour is being targeted by local government. The rumor alleges that in an attempt to curb overconsumption and the reduced quality of life that goes with it, government officials are considering a ban on happy hour. This story probably isn’t true but it does raise and interesting question; does New York nightlife need happy hour and does the practice more trouble that it is worth?
Happy hour is normally the time period between 4-7 pm on weekdays. During happy hour, a venue will lower their drink prices, offer food specials and have other economic enticements to get people to go out after work and before the night begins. It is the time for co-workers to complain about the boss before getting on the commuter train. It is the time for early first dates, pregaming and the casual consumption that many people rely on. It is the closest equivalent we have to European bar and café culture where people can connect over a stein of beer in Vienna or a glass of wine in Paris. Not everyone can hit the club at midnight or come back into the city on the weekend to go out. In the age of Groupon and Living Social, happy hour is the original discount incentive. It is just another reason for people to go out and do something they were going to do anyway.
I am not aware of any spike in nightlife related crime due to happy hour. Most of those issues happen between midnight and 4am. Banning happy hour will not eliminate early drinking. It will only discourage that percentage of drinkers who were only going out because drinks were cheaper. People will still need to complain about their boss, consume casual liquor and come together in a social setting. If there is a social issue created by happy hour then that issue should be dealt with directly. Trying to discourage social interaction and casual consumption doesn’t help anyone.