Along with seven other U.S. states, Massachusetts strictly prohibits businesses from offering customers promotional discounts on alcoholic beverages. The state first enacted the ban in 1984 as part of an effort to reduce drunk driving deaths.
While Massachusetts businesses are generally happy to comply with state measures, owners may easily run afoul of state “happy hour” restrictions if they do not know the specifics of the law. That may result in stiff fines or revocation of serving licenses. Here are four facts for restaurateurs to know about the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission’s regulations on promotional alcoholic sales.
- Prohibitions on free drink offers
The ABCC restricts any business or business employee from offering, selling or delivering free alcoholic beverages to any person. However, there are some limited provisions for spirit tastings offered by restaurants, function halls, hotels or farmer-distilleries with a special license.
- Limits on the number of drinks served
In most cases, businesses cannot serve or deliver more than two drinks at one time to a single person, including selling a pitcher of beer to a solo customer. There is a limited exception for single diners, who may purchase a bottle of wine with a meal. However, said customers must comply with ABCC regulation 204 C.M.R. 2.18 when taking any unconsumed wine off the licensee’s property.
- Regulations regarding promotional deals
Except at private functions that are not open to the public, the ABCC restricts businesses from selling, offering or delivering alcoholic beverages at a lower price on a specific day than offered during the calendar week. The law also prohibits the use of games or contests which either involve drinking or the award of alcoholic drinks as prizes.
- Prohibitions on amount of alcohol offered
The ABCC restricts licensees from providing an unlimited number of drinks at a fixed price during a predetermined period except when offered as part of a nonpublic function. The law also prohibits businesses from offering stronger alcoholic beverages for the price usually charged.