What are the limitations on Happy Hours?

happy hour sign

Photo by Richard Heyes, http://www.tecmark.co.uk



Happy hours offer a great deal of versatility for a business to attract new customers and set itself apart from the competition.  As with most marketing in this industry, however, there is a series of rules and regulations which a business must work to comply with in operating a happy hour.  



First, each alcohol license can have any number of site-specific conditions, including limits or bans on happy hours.  If these conditions govern the license-holder’s happy hour, then those conditions must be followed even where the business would not otherwise be in violation of the law.

California restrictions on happy hours most commonly arise in the context of promotions. A business cannot provide free alcohol to patrons.  This includes offering two-for-one drinks or any food and drink deal that effectively makes the drink free to the customer.  Local jurisdictions may have additional restrictions governing happy hours, so a business should always check with local regulations before committing to any plans.

There is no time limit on “happy hour.”  A business can have its “happy hour” include all its hours of operation as long as those hours remain within this statutory limitation 6 am and 2 am, or lesser condition of the license.  (SB 384, a pending bill in the California legislature, may change the closing time to 4 AM)  This regulation means that no patron can have alcohol in their possession on the premises outside of that time.


Photo credit:  Richard Heyes, Its Always Happy ‘Hour’, Palo Alto, California, Flickr Creative Commons.  See also Photographer’s website: www.tecmark.co.uk

About William Adams

Attorney at Norton, Moore, & Adams, LLP.
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