Differences Between New Orleans and New England, Round 2: Drinking

Disclaimer: Despite the catchy title, this post is actually pretty specific to Massachusetts.

Happy Hours

I grew up in Massachusetts, but I went to college in New York state and I turned 21 while I was there. AND I IMMEDIATELY WENT ON A RAGING ALCOHOLIC BENDER. No, that’s not true, I hardly ever drank in college and the main difference in my life after I turned 21 was that I could go to the very posh Arlington Wine & Liquors and buy very tame drinks for my apartment housemates to classily sip over our very wholesome organic meals. (And then we would play board games. All this is true.) My point is, I wasn’t going “out” drinking while I lived in New York, and I wasn’t living in a city where I could walk down the street and see those little hipster blackboards propped up outside advertising drink specials.

Happy Hour

After graduating I moved to New Orleans. And a new phrase entered my vocabulary: the “Happy Hour.”

That’s right. Leah had never heard of the Happy Hour before.

Conversations went like this:

Friend A: “Yeah, we should really have a drinks night after work soon! There’s an amazing Happy Hour at Delachaise.”

Friend B: “No, Il Posto has the most incredible Happy Hour ever!! Unlimited hors d’oeuvres! Half-price Abitas! It’s phenomenal!”

Friend C: “Why can’t the Royal Sonesta have a Happy Hour? They’ve got this one delicious drink that’s just too darn expensive normally!”

Friend A: “Leah, what do you think?”

Leah: “Umm…….. What?”

I quickly learned what a Happy Hour was, had many people mercilessly berate me over this fact, and thereafter enjoyed a great many, chalking my previous ignorance up to a shocking level of drinking culture naïveté.

Then I moved back to Massachusetts, and as I casually glanced at the newspaper one day my eyes happened upon this line: “Happy hours, of course, have been illegal in Massachusetts since 1984.”

My first thought was: Hurrah!!! VINDICATION for all my Happy Hour ignorance! No wonder I had not known what they were! They had not existed in my universe for the first 18 years of my life! I was no obtuse innocent! I had simply had the misfortune of being raised in the most Puritanical state in the nation!

My second thought was: Are you kidding me? No Happy Hours???

Every Other Rule Concerning Alcohol

I think everyone has heard of New Orleans’ notorious liquor laws: alcohol on the street (with certain container restrictions), to-go cups, drive-through daiquiri places, and other general bacchanalian practices. So while I knew Massachusetts did not encourage dancing in the streets while nursing a beer, I was still surprised by what I found.

In Massachusetts, last call happens as early as 11 pm, most alcohol service stops at 1 am with a few exceptions at 2 am. I was at a bar once where one of the waitresses came over at 2 am and asked us to literally remove our drinks from the table. We could continue to drink them, but we had to hold them without putting them down. Also, if you leave an establishment after a certain time, you can’t get back in – doesn’t matter if your coat and your friends are still inside. You are not getting back in. There’s also restrictions on who can order a pitcher and certain quantities of drinks.


That’s a lot of rules! I think I’ll go back to the board games, thank you. Puritans – 1. Licentiousness – 0.

I suppose Massachusetts is really just a good transition for moving to Morocco, where drinking is illegal. Exceptions are made for tourists of course, but since integration is the name of my game, a teetotaler I shall be!

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