The future of Happy Hour

Your favorite weekday activity is about to get even better…

Around 5pm on (Thirsty) Thursday, any given bar in a major city is sure to be packed with young professionals fresh out of the office. This modern ritual is highlighted drink discounts during a limited window.

Have you ever thought about how happy hour started? It’s quite different from where we are now, and I see bigger and better things for happy hour as cannabis continues to become more mainstream.

The Origins

In the early 20th century, happy hour was a military slang term to describe social events at sea. As described in a Washington DC newspaper, these events included everything from boxing bouts to moving pictures. At the core, happy hour was a time and place for people to enjoy themselves and escape their everyday routine. Alcohol was so woven into the national fabric, it wasn’t even necessary to mention drinking in the event description.

These happy hours continued up through prohibition. The book, Prohibition in Washington DC: How Dry We Weren’t, cites Rum Row as a concentrated stretch of speakeasies — places that illegally sold liquor — that held frequent “happy hours”.

Happy Hour as we know it

Adopted by civilians in the 1960s and popularized by the 80s, happy hour started to mean drinks specials. But, even after alcohol was made legal again, there was legislative pushback. In ’86, Massachusetts effectively banned happy hour by banning discounted drinks for a shortened time period. Several other state proceeded to follow suit with regulations of their own. Still, Americans persisted. Regardless of how these states tried to regulate it, alcohol, and especially happy hour, have become a cornerstone of the American working life. Not only does happy hour allow workers to let loose, but it also boosts sales for bars on what would typically be slower weekday shifts. Drinking has not only become an accepted post-work activity, but in some industries it’s even part of the day-to-day.

The Future

There is still a ways to go, but as cannabis gains more popularly, and ultimately becomes an accepted post-work activity, I see happy hour encapsulating cannabis consumption. For places where weed is already legal, like Denver, we’re seeing spaces open that allow social consumption. Last year, the first vaping lounge, Vape and Play, opened its doors in Denver. This establishment and places like it would easily become my go-to post work destination.



While young professionals will begin looking for new ways to blow off steam, businesses will be looking for unique ways to bring in traffic on slower days of the week. How long until my vision for the future of happy hour becomes a reality?

5 years?

10 years?

Let me know in the comments!