A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 18, 2008
Happy Hour

"Happy hour” originally meant an “hour of happiness” (often childhood happiness) and is cited in print from about 1702. The term “happy hour” was used in the navy since at least World War I, meaning a scheduled period for entertainment and refreshments.

“Happy hour” meaning “reduced-price alcoholic drinks” appears to have originated in California and is cited in print from 1951. “Happy hours” are usually in the late afternoon and are usually for longer than one hour (from 5-7 p.m., for example). The saying “It’s happy hour somewhere” (it’s time for a drink) became popular in the 1980s and 1990s.

The “High Tech Happy Hour” (for technology workers) began in Austin (TX) in 1998, followed a few years later by a “Low Tech Happy Hour.”

Taco Bell trademarked “happier hour” from 2011.


Wikipedia: Happy hour
“Happy hour” is a marketing term for a period of time in which a restaurant or bar offers discounts on alcoholic drinks, such as beer, wine and cocktails.

Typically it is in the late afternoon Monday through Thursday, sometimes Friday, usually taking place at some point between 4 PM and 7 PM. This promotion is intended to boost business on what may otherwise be a slow day. In most cases the “happy hour” lasts longer than a single hour. The term Happy Hour also is commonly used to describe the gathering of work colleagues at a restaurant or bar after work hours, including outside the period of 4 PM and 7 PM.

In some European countries like the Netherlands, the price of an alcoholic drink is regulated and selling them at half price is prohibited. During happy hour, a customer gets double the amount of drinks instead.

Origin
The term originated in the United States Navy. In the 1920s, “happy hour” was slang for on-ship performances. “Happy” in this context meant slightly drunk.

The idea of drinking before dinner has its roots in the Prohibition era. When the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act were passed banning alcohol consumption, citizens would host “cocktail hours”, also known as “happy hours”, at a speakeasy (an illegal drinking establishment) before eating at restaurants where alcohol could not be served. Cocktail lounges continued the trend of drinking before dinner. “Happy hour” entered civilian use around 1960, especially after a Saturday Evening Post article in 1959. Happy hour has become a tradition for many workers, white and blue collar alike.

Backlash
The push against drunk driving and alcohol abuse has curtailed the use of the happy hour to some extent.

In the 1980s, bars started providing free hors d’oeuvres to lower the blood alcohol content of patrons.

Happy hour has been illegal in the Republic of Ireland since 2003 under the Intoxicating Liquor Act.

Glasgow has banned happy hours to reduce binge drinking.

In 1984, the U.S. Military abolished happy hours at military base clubs.

Massachusetts was one of the first U.S. States to implement a state-wide ban on Happy Hours in 1984.

The Canadian province of Alberta created restrictions to Happy Hours that took effect in August 2008. All such promotions must end at 8 PM, and drink prices must conform to the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission’s minimum price regulations at all times.

Despite the controversy, happy hour still exists around the globe. In the United States, “Happy Hour” culture consists largely of junior and mid-level professionals getting together for a drink to unwind after work. In the United Kingdom, the cocktail hour serves a similar purpose, but traditionally begins at 5pm and ends an hour later.

(Historical Dictionary of American Slang)
happy hour n.
1. Navy, a scheduled period for entertainment and refreshments on shipboard
1920 Belknap 52 [ref. to 1918]: Boxing and wrestling were taken up by the individual ships and, generally speaking, one evening each week was given over to “happy hours,” for bouts in the ring and on the mat. 86: [The mines’] presence forbade moving picture on board, restricted smoking, and limited the “happy hours” and similar forms of diversion.
1945 in J. Utley Amer. battleship 133: U.S.S. Tennessee Happy Hour in Japan. Monday Oct. 1st at 1400.
1946 Heggen Mr. Roberts 137: The crew held a “Happy Hour,” devoted almost entirely to skits of the broadest and most animalistic sort.
1958 Cope & Dyer Petty Officer’s Guide (ed. 2) 349: Happy Hour. period of entertainment aboard ship, including refreshments.
1958 Plagemann Steel Cocoon 99 [ref. to WWII]: Ensign Cripps...felt that part of the noontime happy hour should be devoted to news broadcasts.
1969 Smith USMC in WWII 427 [ref. to 1942]: They are Americans, lads who came over on the boat with us, stood in line with us for chow, and laughed with us at “Happy Hour.”
2. a time, usu. in the late afternoon, when a bar lowers the price of drinks or serves free snacks. Now colloq.
1959 Sat. Eve. Post (Apr. 25) 24: Except for those who spend too much during “happy hour” at the bar—and there are few of these—the money mounts up fast.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
happy hour (orig. U.S.), a period of time (usu. in the early evening) during which drinks are served in a bar, etc., at reduced prices, or when free hors-d’uvres are available.
1961 Providence Jrnl. 4 July 24/2 All went home happy except the Newport police..and those deprived of their happy hour at the cocktail bar.
1967 Atlantic Monthly July 58/2 There have been other near tragedies which are, in retrospect, awfully good happy-hour bar stories.
1979 Tucson Mag. Feb. 101/2 Free hors d’oeuvres during happy hour (4-8).
1985 Times 12 Aug. 8 Most restaurants and bars have been forced to forget about ‘happy hour’ where drinks are cheaper.

OCLC WorldCat record
Ye Minutes bring ye Happy Hour. : A Song in the Comedy [by Sir R. Steele] call’d the Funeral, sung by Mrs. Campion, etc.
by Daniel Purcell
Type:  Book : Microfilm : Master microform
Publisher: [London, 1702?].

OCLC WorldCat record
Happy hour stories for the little ones.
by Mary Latham Clarke
Type:  Book; English
Publisher: Boston : D. Lothrop, 1870.

OCLC WorldCat record
The happy hour, or, holiday fancies and every-day facts for young people ; with many illustrations.
by Félix Jean Gauchard; John Filmer; D. Appleton and Company.
Type:  Book : Mixed form : Juvenile audience; English
Publisher: New York : D. Appleton and Co., ©1874.

OCLC WorldCat
Happy-hour book; a “good time” music book, designed especially for boys and girls “who want to play the easiest way!”
by John M Williams; Shaylor Turner
Type:  Musical score; English
Publisher: [Boston], Boston Music Co., [1931]

OCLC WorldCat record
Childhood’s happy hour.
by M Elizabeth Durell
Type:  Book; English
Publisher: [Denver, Col., ©1933]

26 November 1951, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “A Little at a Time” by Art Ryon, pg. A5:
And, if you think people have lost their price consciousness, you ought to see the stampede at a Valley tavern during its “Happy Hour” from 5 to 6 p.m.

20 November 1954, Hayward (CA) Daily Review, pg. 6, col. 1 ad:
GIL & BILLIE INVITE YOU TO
OUR HOUSE
FOR THANKSGIVING
“HAPPY HOUR”
5 to 7 Every Day
All drinks...40c
East 14th Street at 150th Ave.
SAN LEANDRO

27 November 1954, Hayward (CA) Daily Review, pg. 14, cols. 2-3:
HAPPY HOUR AT OUR HOUSE.
Gil Pouliot and Billie Adair, owners of San Leandro’s Our House, have come up with an idea that favors the customers more than a little bit. During the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., all drinks hit a 40 cent low. This is known as the “Happy Hour.” Come to think of it, Gil, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. is a long hour and a person could get mighty happy during that time. That’s what the man said, though, and “Happy Hour” it is.

4 December 1954, Hayward (CA) Daily Review, pg. 14, cols. 2-3:
Gil and Billie, owners of Our House have some all out plans for the coming Holidays and if you have not as yet made reservations for the company party, or private banquet, tarry no longer. Our House is the place. The Happy Hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. every night when all drinks are forty cents finds more than one person leaving the Our House portals very happy.

21 November 1958, Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram, pg. A10, col. 5 ad:
TALK OF THE TOWN
DELICIOUS STEAKS . TEMPTING SEA FOOD . ENTERTAINMENT
HAPPY HOUR—4:30 to 6:30 P.M. 

13 February 1959, Long Beach (CA) Independent, pg. C11, col. 1 ad:
TALK OF THE TOWN
STEAK . COMB. STEAK & LOBSTER . SEAFOOD
Don’t Forget Our Happy Hour—4:30 to 6:30

3 April 1959, Daily Review (Hayward, CA)< pg. 21, col. 1 ad:
HAPPY HOUR
Every Nite 11:30 to 12:30
BEER 30c
SHOTS 40
AND DRINK 45c
RICKEY'S
17052 FOOTHILL

15 April 1959, Nevada State Journal (Reno, NV), pg. 3, cols. 3-8 ad:
new..at the COACH ROOM
THE HAPPY HOUR!
all drinks 50c
(...)
The Happy Hour today
5:00 to 7:00
Starting today, to be every evening except Sundays, the Happy Hour will be a very happy time indeed. All drinks..even giant manhattans and giant martinis, will be 50 cents. Canapes...delicious and specially prepared...will be free of course.
(...)
Coach Room
HOTEL MAPES

OCLC WorldCat record
Recipe leaflets collection
by Southern Comfort Corp.
Type:  Book; English
Publisher: St. Louis, MO : Southern Comfort Corp., 1960-
Document Type: Book
Notes: Collection title supplied by the cataloger.
Description: leaflets : ill.
Contents: How to make the 32 most popular drinks (1960)—40 great drinks (1961)—50 drink recipes (1966)—Happy hour barguide (1969)—Happy hour barguide (1970)—Mixology, 44 famous mixed drinks (1971)—The sunset happy hour barguide (1973)—How to make the 32 most popular drinks (n.d.)—History of mixed drinks (n.d.)—How to make 44 drinks that put life in your party

2 August 2002, New York (NY) Daily News, “ABC prime drag on Disney,” pg. 37, col. 4:
Lyne’s launching a nightly hour of family shows at 8 p.m., dubbed “Happy Hour,” and has gotten some early buzz with a new comedy starring John Ritter called “8 Simple Rules.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Thursday, December 18, 2008 • Permalink