Bars and taverns everywhere have that time of day or evening called the happy hour. It’s a custom we observe with no idea of where it came from. For people enjoying the happy hour Tampa is no exception. What is the real origin of the happy hour?
The expression itself goes back to the works of Shakespeare, specifically “Fair thoughts and happy hours attend on you.” from The Merchant of Venice. But he really isn’t talking about drinking. For our real answer we must look elsewhere.
The earliest happy hours were held by the Navy, aboard the USS Arkansas in 1914-but they were mainly about boxing matches and movies. There was a little drinking until the Navy prohibited it.
What really started the happy hour as we know it, not surprisingly, was Prohibition. When the federal government outlawed alcohol consumption from 1920 to 1933, Americans during those years got together before going out for formal evenings to do a little drinking on the sly. But even those lawless libations were not called happy hours. The term started to make its way into our social lexicon in the 1940s and ’50s, when partying after World War II and
the resumption of “normal” home and work life for returning GIs led to bars and taverns instituting happy hours for the time men wrapped up the day’s work at about 5 PM.
From that time to this, the happy hour has existed as a time when eating and drinking establishments reduced drink prices in times of highest demand, a time for customers to eat, drink and be merry-and the owners to make up for lowered prices with higher consumption. Happy hour, for the food and drink service industry and its patrons, is a win/win situation. So raise your glass and enjoy!