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Happy hour is a marketing term for a period of time in which a public venue, such as a restaurant, bar, bowling alley, stadium, or state/county fair, offers discounts on alcoholic drinks, such as beer, wine, and cocktails.
Typically, it is in the late afternoon Monday through Thursday, usually taking place at some period between 4 PM and 8 PM. Many bars also have a late night happy hour for afternoon shift workers from 10 PM-1 AM. This promotion is intended to boost business on what may otherwise be a slow day. In most cases the "happy hour" lasts longer than a single hour.
The term also is commonly used to describe the gathering of work colleagues at a restaurant or bar after work hours, possibly outside the usual period. or vice versa.
The specifics usually differ from country to country. In some European countries like the Netherlands, the price of an alcoholic drink is regulated, and selling them at half price is prohibited. During happy hour, a customer gets double the amount of drinks instead. In Italy, a customer often pays the same price or even more for the drink but is offered free fingerfoods. In the United States it typically entails finger foods and discounted drinks.
Happy hour can also be referred to as the period prior to dinner, where appetizers and drinks are served at one's home.
One possible origin of the term is from the United States Navy. In the 1920s, "Happy Hour" was slang for a scheduled entertainment period on board a ship during which boxing (or fisticuffs) and wrestling bouts took place; this was a valuable opportunity for sailors to relieve the stress accumulated during the long periods at sea.
The idea of drinking before dinner has its roots in the Prohibition era. When the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act were passed banning alcohol consumption, people would host "cocktail hours", also known as "happy hours", at a speakeasy (an illegal drinking establishment) before eating at restaurants where alcohol could not be served. Cocktail lounges continued the trend of drinking before dinner.
In 1984, the U.S. military abolished happy hours at military base clubs.
In 2011, the Utah State Legislature passed a ban on happy-hours, effective January 1st, 2012.
The Canadian province of Alberta created restrictions to happy hours that took effect in August 2008. All such promotions must end at 8 pm, and drink prices must conform to the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission's minimum price regulations at all times.
In Ontario, while establishments may vary liquor prices as long as they stay above the minimum prices set by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, they are not permitted to advertise these prices "in a manner that may promote immoderate consumption." In particular, the phrase "happy hour" may not be used in such advertisement.
In major cities of India, happy hour typically entails discounted drinks and appetizers, and in many establishments, customers may receive buy one, get one free offers on drinks and appetizers.
Happy hour has been illegal in the Republic of Ireland since 2003 under the Intoxicating Liquor Act.
The KHN, a hospitality sector lobby group, has agreed with its members to stop happy hours to discourage binge drinking by youth, but only if the government would vote to raise the minimum drinking age. In March 2013, the law to raise the drinking age to 18 was passed.
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