Health Behaviors Tobacco Use Diet & Exercise Alcohol & Drug Use Sexual Activity Search Policies & Programs

Display All Policies & Programs

Drink special restrictions

Health Factors: Alcohol & Drug Use
Decision Makers: Local Government State Government
Evidence Rating: Some Evidence
Population Reach: 1-9% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

Is this program or policy in use in your community? Tell us about it.


Restrictions on drink specials place limits or bans on promotional events such as happy hours, ladies' nights, all-you-can-drink specials, and unlimited beverages at a fixed price for a fixed period of time.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Reduced excessive drinking
Reduced underage drinking
Reduced alcohol-related crashes
Improved health outcomes

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that restricting drink specials decreases excessive alcohol consumption (Kingsland 2013, O'Mara 2000, Thombs 2009, Thombs 2008, Christie 2001, Babor 1978). Happy hour restrictions are a suggested strategy to reduce binge drinking, especially among college students (RAND-Imm 2007, NIAAA-College drinking 2002). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Drink promotions that reduce the price of alcohol increase planned (Christie 2001) and actual alcohol consumption (Kingsland 2013, O'Mara 2000, Thombs 2009, Thombs 2008, Babor 1978). Overall alcohol consumption and related problems decrease when alcohol prices increase (Cook 2002); effects have been shown for beer, wine, and spirits (CG-Alcohol, Wagenaar 2009). As alcohol prices increase, alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents, traffic offenses (Adrian 2001), and negative health effects also decrease (Purshouse 2010, Chaloupka 2002), especially among young adults (Purshouse 2010).

Lower alcohol prices are associated with increased underage (Chaloupka 2002, Wechsler 2000) and binge drinking (Chaloupka 2002) among college students. Higher prices are associated with a lower risk of leaving an establishment intoxicated (O'Mara 2000). The price of beer may not influence alcohol consumption among college males, but its cost appears to affect the likelihood of underage and binge drinking by college women (Chaloupka 2002).


United States

Restrictions on drink specials vary within and between states. As of 2003, 27 states had laws restricting or banning various promotions, including prohibitions or limits on ''happy hours,'' prohibition of free beverages, increases in servings or volume of serving during a certain time period, and prizes (NHTSA-Happy hour 2005).


Wisconsin has enacted none of the laws that other states use to limit ''happy hours.''

Implementation Resources

NHTSA-Happy hour 2005 - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Preventing over-consumption of alcohol - sales to the intoxicated and “happy hour” (drink special) laws. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2005:Research Report. Accessed on March 1, 2017

Citations - Evidence

Adrian 2001* - Adrian M, Ferguson BS, Her M. Can alcohol price policies be used to reduce drunk driving? Evidence from Canada. Substance Use & Misuse. 2001;36(13):1923–57. Accessed on November 23, 2015
Babor 1978* - Babor TF, Mendelson JH, Greenberg I, Kuehnle J. Experimental analysis of the “happy hour”: Effects of purchase price on alcohol consumption. Psychopharmacology. 1978;58(1):35–41. Accessed on December 1, 2015
CG-Alcohol - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Excessive alcohol consumption. Accessed on May 16, 2017
Chaloupka 2002* - Chaloupka FJ, Grossman M, Saffer H. The effects of price on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. Alcohol Research & Health: The Journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2002;26(1):22–34. Accessed on November 30, 2015
Christie 2001* - Christie J, Fisher D, Kozup JC, et al. The effects of bar-sponsored alcohol beverage promotions across binge and nonbinge drinkers. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing. 2001;20(2):240–53. Accessed on December 14, 2015
Cook 2002 - Cook PJ, Moore MJ. The economics of alcohol abuse and alcohol-control policies. Health Affairs. 2002;21(2):120–33. Accessed on December 10, 2015
Kingsland 2013 - Kingsland M, Wolfenden L, Rowland BC, et al. Alcohol consumption and sport: A cross-sectional study of alcohol management practices associated with at-risk alcohol consumption at community football clubs. BMC Public Health. 2013;13(1):762. Accessed on November 23, 2015
NIAAA-College drinking 2002 - Task Force of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health (NIH). A call to action: Changing the culture of drinking at US colleges. Rockville: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA); 2002. Accessed on March 1, 2016
O'Mara 2000* - O’Mara RJ, Thombs DL, Wagenaar AC, et al. Alcohol price and intoxication in college bars. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2009;33(11):1973–80. Accessed on November 24, 2015
Purshouse 2010* - Purshouse RC, Meier PS, Brennan A, Taylor KB, Rafia R. Estimated effect of alcohol pricing policies on health and health economic outcomes in England: An epidemiological model. Lancet. 2010;375(9723):1355–64. Accessed on November 24, 2015
RAND-Imm 2007 - Imm P, Chinman M, Wandersman A, et al. Preventing underage drinking: Using Getting To Outcomes™ with the SAMHSA strategic prevention framework to achieve results. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2007: Technical Report 403. Accessed on June 23, 2017
Thombs 2008* - Thombs DL, Dodd V, Pokorny SB, et al. Drink specials and the intoxication levels of patrons exiting college bars. American Journal of Health Behavior. 2008;32(4):411–19. Accessed on November 23, 2015
Thombs 2009* - Thombs DL, O’Mara R, Dodd VJ, et al. A field study of bar-sponsored drink specials and their associations with patron intoxication*. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2009;70(2):206–14. Accessed on November 23, 2015
Wagenaar 2009* - Wagenaar AC, Salois MJ, Komro KA. Effects of beverage alcohol price and tax levels on drinking: A meta-analysis of 1003 estimates from 112 studies. Addiction. 2009;104(2):179-90. Accessed on May 16, 2017
Wechsler 2000 - Wechsler H, Kuo M, Lee H, Dowdall GW. Environmental correlates of underage alcohol use and related problems of college students. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2000;19(1):24–9. Accessed on November 24, 2015

Citations - Implementation

NHTSA-Happy hour 2005 - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Preventing over-consumption of alcohol - sales to the intoxicated and “happy hour” (drink special) laws. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2005:Research Report. Accessed on March 1, 2017

Page Last Updated

August 13, 2014

* Journal subscription may be required for access.