In early June, Sam Davidson attended a cookout in Boston. Over the course of a few drinks, friends visiting from New York regaled the group with memories of fun times during happy hours after work with colleagues.
The friends then found themselves rehashing a conversation they had had many time before: complaining about Massachusetts’ three-decade-old ban on happy hours.
However, unlike previous times, Davidson decided to act.
A few weeks later, the 27-year-old software entrepreneur started an online petition calling on local officials to allow happy hours at bars in the city.
Today, that petition has over 9,000 signatures and is well on its way to the target of 10,000, at which point Davidson says he’ll submit the list to officials.
The ban, which has been in force since 1984, was enacted as a response to concerns over deaths due to drunk driving. According to reports dating from the time, officials believed that a ban -- the first in the country -- would reduce binge drinking and the number of people climbing behind the wheel while drunk. Several more states followed Massachusetts, enacting their own prohibitions on happy hour.
But Davidson claims that times have changed, and that Boston “is a great walking city, where Uber and Lyft have made it super affordable to get around.”
“Since 1984, drunk driving deaths in Massachusetts have decreased significantly, but that is a nationwide trend, and many states like New Hampshire and California have seen steeper declines,” he told ABC News. “This leads us to believe there’s little or no correlation between states with happy hour bans and states with drunk driving deaths.”
He said he has been encouraged by Mayor Martin Walsh’s recent initiatives that allow certain bars to remain open past traditionally mandated closing times.
“We’ve been encouraged by that, but felt like it’s probably safer and better to bring back happy hour than keep the bars open till 3 and 4 in the morning,” Davidson said, noting that he hopes asking for an exemption for Boston, rather than a state-wide repeal, will increase the chances of officials taking notice.
“We felt most confident suggesting that we bring happy hour back to Boston,” he said. “We support bringing happy hour back statewide.”
When asked about the mayor’s thoughts regarding the petition, Walsh’s spokeswoman told ABC News: “While the Mayor has opposed happy hour in the past as a State Representative, the Mayor's Office is not involved in this because the Mayor would not have a role in in changing regulations."
Davidson has developed an app called “Cheers” that connects groups of friends and offers them complimentary drinks when they meet in person. But he said he does not stand to gain much from a happy hour ban repeal because his app is likely the only way to receive free drinks under the current regulations.
Instead, he says that it’s been a long-held belief that the ban crimps Boston’s style and possibly even damages the economy.
“As silly as it may sound, a lot of young professionals would hesitate and do hesitate to move to Boston because they don’t want to move to a place and spend their 20s and 30s in a place with such stringent drinking laws or without happy hour,” he said.