Special Report

The Best Happy Hour Spot in (Almost) Every State

Findings and Methodology

Happy hour in the sense we know it today seems to have developed in the years after World War II, and by the 1970s, had become a widespread phenomenon — a way for anyone selling alcohol (wine bars, cocktail lounges, taverns, eating places) to boost their early-evening sales.

 Of course, people are likely to drink more if drinks are cheaper — and maybe even to stay on after happy hour discounts expire for the night. The fact that happy hours encourage increased alcohol consumption — binge drinking, if you will — is responsible for the fact that eight states actually ban happy hours. Those are Alaska, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Vermont. There are movements in some of these to end the ban, however — for instance, an attempt earlier this year, as yet unsuccessful, to return happy hour to Vermont.

Many other states, while not forbidding happy hours completely, have placed restrictions on their length, on the extent to which drinks may be discounted, on how happy hours may be advertised, and/or on the kinds of promotions that may be offered. There are no limitations, happily, on the bargain-priced food that can be offered, and this tends to be casual, familiar fare — perhaps involving some of America’s favorite comfort foods

On the other hand, length restrictions notwithstanding, it should be noted that “happy hour” virtually always lasts for several hours. Some places even offer “reverse happy hour,” starting late in the evening and extending until closing time.

 24/7 Tempo began its choice of the best happy hour spots by compiling a list of bars and restaurants whose listings included the keywords “happy hour” on Yelp. To be considered, the establishments needed to be in or near a city with a population of at least 100,000 people, though in states with few or no cities of this size, bars in smaller cities were also considered. They also needed to have been reviewed at least 50 times, and have an average rating of 4 or more stars. Relatively expensive places (listed with “$$$$” or “$$$”) were not considered.

Drawing from this initial list, we consulted the establishments’ own websites and numerous local and national review sites to find the places offering the most interesting and/or most extensive happy hour specials and the most appealing prices, focusing on those known for the quality of their food and/or drinks when possible.