The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s (TABC) ban put a stop to the two-for-one drinks that have characterized happy hour, but the new rules haven’t changed the way many people unwind after work.
So far, the ban hasn’t put a dent in the happy-hour market, but some restaurant owners are looking ahead by planning alternatives to the traditional cocktail hour. There are obviously sound reasons for the changes. A study published in Psychopharmacology magazine revealed that during happy hours, alcohol consumption is increased as much as nine times. In addition, the happy hours encourage consumption of greater quantity during the late afternoon, a time of day when people are most vulnerable to the inebriating effects of alcohol. Furthermore, the afternoon and early evening are peak driving times.
In many cases, restaurant managers are trying to get around the ban and thus avoid the financial ramifications. Some restaurants, such as Shaws, have simply gone from two-for-one drinks to double shots in one glass. Others, like TGIFridays, have substituted more substantial buffets for discounted liquor. Still others, such as Bennigan’s, have reduced the cost per drink.
Attempts to sidestep the ban by reducing the cost per drink have kept business up to par for many restaurant and bars, but that could change soon if a bill filed for this session by Rep. Gary Thompson is passed. The bill would make it illegal to offer cut-rate drinks, contests or special promotions.
At Shaws, the restaurant and bar staff goes so far as to take some customers home when they’ve had too many. Other clubs, such as TGIFridays, train their bartenders and waitresses to monitor a customer’s drinking habits and to stop service if necessary, says manager Doug Griffin. The restaurant staff also emphasizes checking identification to make sure minors aren’t served.
At Daniel’s, one of several approaches may go into effect soon. The management is considering a buddy program, in which a designated driver does not drink or limits alcohol consumption. They also are considering a program where the staff would drive drinkers home or call a taxi.