We did not want to take all of the happiness out of happy hour, but we did feel the need to curtail some of the activities associated with it. In the end, I believe we adopted a proposal that will encourage alcohol consumption in moderation among those who choose to drink and one that will not cause any undue hardships on those who sell alcoholic beverages.
Recently, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board imposed additional restrictions on happy hour. They will go into effect Dec. 12, provided the regulation is approved by the governor and members of the state legislature.
The regulation, among other things, will prohibit happy hour after 9 p.m. It will prohibit offers of two or more drinks for the price of one and "all-you-ca-drink specials." It will ban advertising of happy hours in the media and on exterior signs.
Traditional happy hours, held at the completion of the work day, have been a source of pleasure for many Virginians for many years, and the overwhelming majority use alcohol responsibly. Others, though, become slap happy and have difficulty handling it. Thus, we felt the need to impose additional restrictions to prevent irresponsible behavior and abuse by those lacking the maturity and good judgment to handle the product.
The elimination of offers of two drinks or more for the price of one was an extremely significant action, because many people see a couple of drinks in front of them and feel the need to consume both. Offers of multiple drinks for the price of one can -- and often do -- lead to excessive consumption. And we were particularly concerned by late-night happy hours because a survey of licensees we undertook showed that they were the biggest problem. We were also concerned that some people might be drinking more than they should, without the benefit of food, and getting in their automobiles to go home.
Excessive drinking and drunken driving are both distasteful, and we're doing what we can to control or reduce it.
I strongly urge other political jurisdictions to consider such an approach when studying their own happy-hour practices. Just as uniformity among states is needed with regard to the legal drinking age, uniformity is needed with respect to happy hours.
Political jurisdictions would serve the public's best interest by, at a bare minimum, prohibiting sellers of alcoholic beverages from offering two or more drinks for the price of one and by prohibiting happy hours after 9 p.m.
Such restrictions would reduce travel across state boundaries to participate in a practice that was banned by the traveler's home state. And that would help reduce needless tragedies.