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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.
One possible origin of the term is from the United States Navy. In early 1913, a group of "home makers" called the "Happy Hour Social" organized "semi-weekly smokers" on board the U.S.S. Arkansas (BB 33). The name "Happy Hour Club," "Happy Hour Social Club," and similar variants, had been in use, primarily by women's social clubs since at least the early 1880s. By June 1913, the crew referred to the smokers as "Happy Hours." The "Happy Hours" included a variety of entertainment, including boxing and wrestling matches, music, dancing and movies. By the end of World War I, the practice of holding "Happy Hours" had spread throughout the entire Navy.
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.
The Random House Dictinoary of American Slang dates "Happy hour," as a term for afternoon drinks in a bar, to a Saturday Evening Post article on military life in 1959. That article detailed the lives of government contractors and military personnel who worked at missile-tracking facilities in the Caribbean and the Atlantic. "Except for those who spend too much during “happy hour” at the bar – and there are few of these – the money mounts up fast." Barry Popick's online etymology dictionary, The Big Apple, lists several pre-1959 citations to "Happy Hour" in print, mostly from places near Naval bases in California, from as early 1951.
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 1, 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.
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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