Happy Hour Restrictions

Happy Hour Restrictions Peggy Kelley Thu, 10/25/2018 - 03:50 PM EDT


Happy hour restrictions are policies that reduce or limit alcohol price promotions and specials. Happy hour promotions often attract younger drinkers and encourage binge-drinking by making alcohol less expensive.


To restrict the commercial availability of alcohol to underage youth

Typical Elements

  • Variation in happy hour restrictions by state (Ralstin, 2014):
    • Does the state ban happy hours?
    • Does the state impose temporal restrictions?
    • Does the state restrict discount amounts?
    • Does the state ban unlimited drinks?
    • Is this a state with no happy hour bans or restrictions?
    • Tip: For information about individual state restrictions, see the National Center for State Court’s Issue Brief 7: Happy Hour Laws (Ralstin, 2014).
  • Variation in the state’s power to regulate happy hours (Ralstin, 2014):
    • Does the state use administrative codes (i.e., delegates the power to the state’s alcohol beverage commission)? 
    • Do state statutes outline restrictions and rules?
  • Individuals/organizations with appropriate expertise collaborate with relevant stakeholders to draft new or revise existing happy hour restrictions for consideration by community leaders in the state. Texas is often considered to have a model policy which prohibits these 11 practices (Imm et al., 2007).
    1. Providing “two for one” or other multiple sale discounts
    2. Increasing alcohol volume without increasing drink price
    3. Serving more than one free alcoholic beverage to any identifiable segment of the population (e.g., women)
    4. “All you can drink” or fixed-price sales
    5. Selling alcoholic drinks at a reduced price for a fixed “buy in” price
    6. Selling alcoholic drinks at a price dependent on the amount an individual consumes
    7. Reducing drink prices after 11:00 p.m.
    8. Selling more than two drinks to one person at one time
    9. Imposing an entry fee to recover financial losses experienced due to reduced drink prices
    10. Holding drinking contests or awarding alcoholic drinks as prizes
    11. Any practice that encourages excessive drinking by consumers, or impairs the ability of a bartender or licensee to monitor or control alcohol consumption of consumers
  • Individuals/organizations with the appropriate expertise collaborate with community leaders to identify the consequences for non-compliance (e.g., fines, license suspensions, and revocations) and include them in the drafted or revised restrictions (NHTSA, 2005).
  • Community leaders who promote enforcement of happy hour restrictions and regular inspections for compliance. Strategies to identify violations include (NHTSA, 2005):
    • Using undercover surveillance and observation by alcohol enforcement agencies
    • Establishing complaint systems whereby local law enforcement can report violations to the state alcohol control agency for action
    • Ascertaining last place of drink for those who are arrested while driving under the influence
    • Reviewing and monitoring bar advertisements
  • Community leaders who combine happy hour restrictions with other laws and policies targeting underage drinking, such as alcohol advertising restrictions (Kuo, Wechsler, Greenberg, & Lee, 2003), keg registration, or minimum age of alcohol purchase, sale, and server laws (Wechsler, Lee, Nelson, & Kuo, 2002).
  • Prevention champions and stakeholders who build support for new happy hour restrictions or increase awareness about existing laws and regulations. Strategies can include (NHTSA, 2005):
    • Using media advocacy techniques to disseminate information to the general public and policymakers about the role of happy hour restrictions in reducing alcohol-related harms
    • Conducting outreach and education efforts for alcohol outlets, in collaboration with local law enforcement, about policy requirements and consequences for non-compliance


  • Youth under age 21
  • Adult drinkers
  • Alcohol outlets
  • Law enforcement agencies (e.g., police)


  • No outcome data found for role of happy hour restrictions on their own in preventing underage drinking and/or its consequences.
  • When happy hour restrictions have been combined with other laws and policies targeting underage drinking, they have been associated with reductions in:
    • Binge-drinking among underage youth on campuses (Wechsler et al., 2002, Kuo et al., 2003)
    • Drinking and driving among college-aged students (Wechsler, Lee, Nelson, & Lee, 2003)
    • Alcohol use among college students (Williams, Chaloupka, & Wechsler, 2005)


Issue Brief 7: Happy Hour Laws

Preventing Underage Drinking: Using Getting to Outcomes™ with the SAMHSA Strategic Prevention Framework to Achieve Results

Research Report: Preventing Over-Consumption of Alcohol – Sales to the Intoxicated and “Happy Hour” (Drink Special) Laws

The Marketing of Alcohol to College Students: The Role of Low Prices and Special Promotions


Athena Forum: Excellence in Prevention


Imm, P., Chinman, M., Wandersman, A., Rosenbloom, D., Guckenburg, S., & Leis, R. (2007). Preventing underage drinking: Using Getting To Outcomes™ with the SAMHSA Strategic Prevention Framework to achieve results. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/technical_reports/2007/RAND_TR403.pdf

Kuo, M., Wechsler, H., Greenberg, P., & Lee, H. (2003). The marketing of alcohol to college students: The role of low prices and special promotions. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 25(3), 204–211. Retrieved from https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(03)00200-9/pdf

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). (2005). Research report: Preventing over-consumption of alcohol – Sales to the intoxicated and “happy hour” (drink special) laws. Retrieved from http://www.nllea.org/documents/PreventingOverconsumptionNHTSA.pdf

Ralstin, N. (2014). Issue brief 7: Happy hour laws. National Center for State Courts (NCSC), Department of Transportation. Retrieved from http://home.trafficresourcecenter.org/~/media/Microsites/Files/traffic-safety/Issue%20Brief%207%20Happy%20Hour.ashx

Wechsler, H., Lee, J., Nelson, T. F., & Kuo, M. (2002). Underage college students’ drinking behavior, access to alcohol, and the influence of deterrence policies. Journal of American College Health, 50(5), 223.

Wechsler, H., Lee, J., Nelson, T., & Lee, H. (2003). Drinking and driving among college students: The influence of alcohol control policies. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 25(3), 212–218.

Williams, J., Chaloupka, F. J., & Wechsler, H. (2005). Are there differential effects of price and policy on college students’ drinking intensity? Contemporary Economic Policy, 23(1), 78–90.