Business & Economy

Divided House shoots down happy hour

Oliver Olsen
Rep. Oliver Olsen, I-Londonderry, testifies to fellow lawmakers. File photo by Amy Ash Nixon/VTDigger

The party’s over for a bid to legalize happy hour at bars and restaurants in Vermont, at least for now.

Rep. Oliver Olsen, I-Londonderry, pushed for the measure, seeking to add it as an amendment to a bill up for action on the House floor.

“Many of you may or may not realize that happy hour is actually illegal in Vermont,” he said to fellow lawmakers. “As a restaurant or bar you cannot offer discount alcoholic beverages over a few hours a day.”

Allowing venues to offer specials on alcoholic beverages, he said, is an economic issue, particularly for the parts of Vermont dependent on tourism.

“Vermont is a tourist destination, and increasingly a culinary destination,” Olsen said, adding that the craft beer industry in the state continues to grow.

The House shot the amendment down, with 69 representatives opposing it and 49 in favor. A voice vote did not yield a clear result, so members had to stand and be counted whether they were in support or against the legislation.

It didn’t appear to be a partisan issue. Many members of different political parties stood both for and against the amendment.

In addition to Olsen, others signing as sponsors of the amendment included Democrats, Republicans and Progressives.

The bill, H.238, to which he tried to attach the one-paragraph amendment deals with the “modernization” and “reorganization” of statutes regarding alcoholic beverages.

Tom Stevens
Rep. Tom Stevens, D-Waterbury. File photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

The House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs had worked on those changes before recommending the bill’s approval on the floor. The full House OK’d it Thursday.

Rep. Tom Stevens, D-Waterbury, the committee’s vice chair, told his fellow representatives Thursday that the legislation was mainly aimed at technical changes to existing statutes and taking into account current practices.

“We tried to limit our substantive changes,” Stevens said.

He said the legislation didn’t seem to be a good fit for an amendment to legalize happy hour. He said the committee had earlier taken up Olsen’s proposed amendment and voted against supporting it.

Stevens said the committee tried to find out why and when happy hour was outlawed but hadn’t yet found the answers. He added that it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the conversation over whether happy hour ought to be legal in Vermont, but more research was needed.

The amendment would have applied to taverns, restaurants, bars and other entities holding a first-class liquor license.

It called for allowing the sale of beer or wine at a “temporarily reduced price” for not more than two hours a day. The beverage, however, could not be sold below its wholesale value.

“In other words,” Olsen said, “it couldn’t be a loss leader.”

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Alan J. Keays

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  • The legislators are too busy funding and legitimizing other vices who have lobbyists with deeper pockets.
    By the way, If Al G. couldn’t help muscle this bill through, how can he do anything with healthcare.

  • Jamie Carter

    The state has entirely too many little nit pick laws…

    We need sunset dates on all laws so that they have to be re-evaluated every so often to ensure they are a.) needed, b.) effective and c.) still relevant. Happy Hour? Really? The state feels the need to regulate whether a business can offer a discount for 1 hour a day… that’s just ridiculous.

  • Bob Orleck

    Lets hope the House is as responsible and shoots down any bill for legalization of marijuana. Increasing drunk or drugged drivers on our roads is not what Vermont needs in the middle of an opiate epidemic. Good decision on happy hour. Hope they are as worried about increasing the use of marijuana as they are alcohol. We can only hope!

  • Neil Johnson

    I love it. Price fixing in Vermont is clearly the norm for our representatives. They want to control pricing for private industry too.

    Isn’t it interesting that they won’t allow happy hour but they want to legalize more drugs. Of course they wanted total market control on that substance. Do you see a trend?

    When consumers are offered something at a lower price, Vermont Government steps in and say no. Interesting…..

  • wendywilton

    Taxing coffee, and no Happy Hour. Guess the party’s over!

  • Steve Baker

    A business owner is prevented from running their business in a way they see fit. The Vermont Government wants to regulate everything. And we wonder why we’re in the situation we’re in? Centralized Big Government….

  • Gary Dickinson

    Is it against the law to charge representatives double for their drinks?

  • Dennis Works

    Happy hours are illegal in approximately 1/2 of the states, in one form or another. Some of those states are Democratic strongholds and some are Republican strongholds – such laws have little-to-nothing to do with political leanings. They are most often implemented for health and safety reasons because it has been shown that “Happy Hour” encourages binge drinking, where someone drinks as much as they can within the time period when drinks sell for (often) 1/2 price. This is unhealthy for the imbiber, and can also be unhealthy for the innocent motorist or pedestrian who happens to be the victim of a drunk driver. As such, the state has every legitimate reason and right to ban “Happy Hour”.