It’s 5:15 PM on a Tuesday, and you’re finally done with a long day of work. You’re exhausted, and all you want is to hang with your friends over good food and drinks that won’t put a dent in your wallet. As you walk out to your car, you thank your lucky stars that there’s such a thing as happy hour.
So, what is this special hour of the day we all look forward to? The first thing that comes to mind when you think of this treasured time is likely cheap drinks around 5:00 PM. But, is there more to it than 6 dollar beers and half-off mozzarella sticks?
It turns out there is.
Happy hour has a fascinating history you may have never heard about. And it all started with a group of sailors.
Hats off to the US Navy
Famously known for maintaining the freedom of the seas, the US Navy less famously played a big part in happy hour origins.
In 1914, a group aboard the USS Arkansas deemed themselves the “Happy Hour Social.” They held regular parties, which they called “smokers,” that took place in the early evenings. By the end of WWI, these smokers were celebrated throughout the entire Navy.
What was the purpose?
So, what did this time mean to these sailors? Surely, they didn’t have bars and restaurants with discounted apps in the middle of the sea. But, it was still a form of entertainment that served to relieve boredom and encourage relaxation.
Sailors would gather on the naval ships to engage with one another. This would help take their minds off of the drudgery accompanied by life at sea.
What happened during these “happy hours”?
A variety of activities happened during these early evenings. The sailors would hold morale-boosting activities, such as boxing or wrestling matches, dancing, and playing music.
While these activities seem more like something you’d do at summer camp rather than at your local bar, they served the same purpose as getting cheap drinks at your local bar today. They were meant to provide enjoyment and space to unwind.
But, over the years, the phenomenon of happy hour became more about drinking and socializing and less about various forms of entertainment.
The Prohibition rule-breakers
The history of the happy hour wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the tantalizing Prohibition era. People who broke the rules of Prohibition set a trend. They were rebels who sought after freedom and wild nights of unabashed celebration.
When the consumption of alcohol became illegal in the United States, people were tempted to drink underground in speakeasies. This is how the Prohibition nonconformists set the stage for what happy hour is today.
The role of the speakeasy
Speakeasies were secret establishments that aimed to satisfy people’s desire to drink. They were founded as a result of banned drinking. Every speakeasy sold alcohol illegally to whomever entered looking for a good time. Speakeasies also promoted the secret consumption of liquor by making it easily accessible during this conservative era.
Because speakeasies were covert operations, they were disguised as other businesses. To the everyday pedestrian, a speakeasy could appear as any old cafe, entertainment venue, or soda shop.
So, we owe a huge thanks to the renegades during the Prohibition for giving us this highly anticipated hour after a long day’s work. Let’s dive into why.
How did the speakeasy happy hour come about?
So, how exactly did speakeasies contribute to what happy hour is in the 21st century? Well, back in the 1920s, the Prohibition rebels called this time their “cocktail hour,” which could take place either in a speakeasy or a friend’s living room.
Now, it makes sense to imagine these gatherings taking place in the late hours of the night. This is because we associate nighttime with sneaking out and breaking the rules. However, speakeasies were actually the most crowded in the early evening before dinner time. This is because restaurants, which are where you’d go for dinner, weren’t places where you could order a cocktail.
So, while restaurants everywhere banned booze, a speakeasy was the go-to spot to get some liquid courage before going out for the night. The modern version of this strategy is high schoolers who “pregame” before going to a party on a Friday night.
By the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the concept of early evening cocktails had caught on. However, a few states have carried on its illegal history.
What US states ban happy hour?
The first state to ban happy hour was Massachusetts. As an effort to curb instances of drunk driving, the phenomenon became illegal in Boston in 1984.
The ten other states that have followed suit are listed below.
- Rhode Island
- North Carolina
What is happy hour today?
Today, this time is the pillar of the American worker’s lifestyle. Over the last few decades, this phrase has come to include drink specials and discounted apps during slower business hours.
When happy hour occurs depends on the bar or restaurant. But, most of them hold this magical social time between the hours of 4:00 PM and 8:00 PM on weekdays. Although, many of us think of it happening around 5:00 PM; hence the popular phrase, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere”.
But, what this time means for bars and restaurants is a little different than what it means for customers.
What’s happy hour for the local bar?
Happy hour helps bars boost their sales during a time that would otherwise be a pretty slow shift. Because it’s held during non-peak hours, it allows businesses to get more customers through the door by offering drinks and apps at discounted prices. So, it’s a win-win for the bar and the customer!
What’s happy hour for the customer?
Happy hours are a common way for friends, co-workers, and families to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Business people may define it as a well-deserved time slot where they can unwind after a long day’s work. On the other hand, college kids might see it as a time to grab a cheap dinner and meet up with classmates.
But, this is what’s so special about happy hour. It attracts and welcomes all walks of life. For example, if you walk into a restaurant around 4:30 PM on a Wednesday, you’ll see a diverse crowd of happy-going customers. You may see a table of men and women in formal business attire, loosening their ties while cheers-ing their glasses of half-off pints. And perhaps at the bar, you’ll see a group of friends catching up over discounted nachos and buffalo wings.
Whoever you are and whatever you do, you go to happy hour because you know it’ll put you in a better mood.
Happy hour at the Pourhouse
For the best happy hour in Minnesota, come to the Pourhouse patio to enjoy half-priced drinks every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday! Nothing’s better than spending this treasured time outside on a warm summer night.
Lastly, what’s a happy hour without games? At Pourhouse, we know that this time isn’t just for sipping on discounted craft beers and cocktails. As a salute to the US Navy, happy hour should promote mood-boosting activities. That’s why we have fun outdoor games like bags, beer pong, and Jenga!
So, come on by to celebrate this all-American tradition, the happy hour.