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Where Did the Term “Happy Hour” Come From?

Happy Hour is one of our favorite times of the day! The term “happy hour” has roots further back than you might think.

After a long day, a drink with coworkers or friends can really hit the spot. This is why restaurants and bars across the country feature “happy hour” weeknight specials, typically between 4 and 8 pm. But happy hour isn’t just a marketing strategy to kick up bar revenue during the week. While happy hour these days means enjoying a discounted drink after a long day of work, there’s an interesting history to the ubiquitous bar special. Here’s where the term “happy hour” comes from.

Naval Roots

Some historians trace the roots of happy hour to slang in the US Navy. In the 1920s, following the First World War, a “happy hour” referred to a period of time on a naval ship when sailors engaged in various types of entertainment to break up long stretches of work aboard the ship. This often included athletic contests or wrestling or boxing matches intended to relieve the monotonous nature of seafaring life. While some historians suggest this military slang made it to the continental US through newspapers, there are some other theories as well.

Prohibition-Era Gatherings

During the 1920s, the US was also in the middle of an interesting (and dry) period in our nation’s history. This was the height of Prohibition, when the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcoholic products was illegal. Though this experiment would fail fairly quickly, in the meantime, Americans started using speakeasies to get alcoholic beverages in secret. Communities would often gather in speakeasies before dinner for illegal cocktails, and eventually, these gatherings came to be known as happy hours. Whether this name was directly or second handedly adopted from the Naval slang, historians can’t be certain, but it’s certainly different from the happy hours we know today!

Happy Hour Today

While we’re no longer living under Prohibition in the US, there are 23 states that have banned restaurants and bars from hosting happy hours. To put it more specifically, these states ban the sale of alcoholic beverages for a fixed price during a fixed period of time. Some states, however, have actually extended the minimum time frame when restaurants and bars can host happy hours. In some other countries, such as Canada and the UK, restrictions have been put on happy hour specials to prevent public binge drinking. For most of us, happy hour is a great excuse to gather with friends or loved ones at your favorite restaurant or bar for drink specials at the end of a long day.


State Fare is conveniently located at 748 Frederick Road in Catonsville, Maryland. Our extensive menu has a variety of unique options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that are sure to please even the pickiest of eaters. We even have many vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options! Our fully-stocked bar holds a huge collection of bourbons and whiskeys, as well as several different wines. On tap, we have several different local craft beers to show off the best beer that Maryland has to offer. We’re open every day from 8 am until 2 am, so make your reservation or just stop in and see us today!

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This entry was posted on Friday, July 26th, 2019 at 5:17 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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