Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Art of Happy Hour (An NYN Special Report)

By Gamal Hennessy

There are a lot of profound and complicated issues in the world today. Understanding happy hour isn't one of them. Happy hour is actually a place where we can go to get away from work, school, home and the stress of our every day lives. Life is meant to be easier (and cheaper) during happy hour.

Like anything else, you can enjoy happy hour more if you know just a little more about it. And since you don't read
New York Nights for coverage of the 2008 presidential race, this is probably the proper forum for this discussion.

Happy hour in New York usually starts around 4:00 PM and ends around 7:00 PM. While the majority of bars, pubs and some early opening lounges have some kind of happy hour pricing, most nightclubs and lounges don't either because they aren't open during that time slot or they don't make their money off that kind of volume.

The classic business rule says buy low and sell high. But a bar during happy hour works on a slightly different principle; it's buy lower and sell low. Often, their goal is to serve cheaper well liquor at reduced prices in the hopes that people will stay after happy hour is over (when they will start paying full price for drinks) or reject the well liquor for top shelf spirits (and agreeing to pay higher prices), or order food (which may not be discounted). As a business, a bar exists to make money. Happy hour gives them the ability to bring people into the bar during a time when it would otherwise be dead.

That's great (for the bar) but happy hour can cause its own share of problems. The main potential problem is overdrinking. This can lead to illness,
hangovers and questionable decisions made under the influence of alcohol (if you don't believe me, just think about the time your friend told you the story about how he woke up next to that midget after going to happy hour. You don't want to be that guy.)

Happy hour is still a great place for pre-parties, after work meetings, or just for those people who don't want to pay $10 for a drink. The question is how do you satisfy your need for inexpensive drinks and let the bar satisfy its need to make money?

We've got a few tips that might help you navigate the treacherous waters of happy hour without injuring your wallet, your liver, or your reputation.

1. Happy hour times can vary. Ask the bartender or waitress when you get there when happy hour ends, so you're not drinking up a storm after happy hour is actually over.
2. Some places offer special drinks during happy hour that go beyond well liquor. Again, it pays to ask questions.
3. If your happy hour spot offers food, get some. It can help you deal with your the increased alcohol intake.
4. Make drinking part of a larger activity. Maybe you're playing pool, or watching the game, or talking about what an asshole your boss was today. It doesn't matter. If you drink while doing something else, you can have a good time for less cash. If you're just drinking because it's cheap, don't be surprised when you're dry heaving over the toilet.
5. Bring friends. Happy hour is early enough for the B&T commuter to have a drink and still catch her train home. It's usually cheap enough for the intern or the student to drink without forcing themselves to eat Ramen noodles until they get paid again. You can use happy hour to connect with people that you won't see in the clubs on the weekends. An added benefit is the more people you bring to the bar, the better the bar does in terms of money, and the better they feel about you. This can lead to good things later. It always helps to be in good standing with your regular bartender.
6. If you are staying at the bar after happy hour is over, try to close out your tab and start a new one. This will help to remind everyone you're with that the prices have changed and it
avoids any potential problems with your bill later.

Happy hour can easily live up to its name with a little planning and a couple of questions. Whether you just grab a drink before watching Survivor: China or you're having a pre-party before a long night on the town, happy hour in New York can be the best way to start the night.

Have fun.

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