Catalonia forbids the happy hour

cocktailOne of Spain’s main daily newspapers, El País, published an article today that left me in a state of shock.  Catalonia, a Spanish region that includes Barcelona, arguably Spain’s hippest and most progressive city, has passed a law forbidding the happy hour, which was described in the article as ‘the undercover promotion of alcoholic drinks in some bars and discos…during which two drinks were offered for the price of one’. The article goes on to say that if the current health minister has her way, this rule will go into effect in the entire country and while a far cry from prohibition, is cause for alarm.

Wait a minute.  This is Spain, a country of fun-loving, irreverent prople whose right to a few drinks after work is as sacred as college football on fall Saturdays.  Not letting bars promote drinks to get some business in a country that is suffering from 18% unemployment and is widely predicted to be the last European country to emerge from the current economic crisis?

Now, I’m not saying irresponsible drinking, just the right to promote your business.

Even the USA, whose citizens are regarded by many Spaniards as straight-laced puritans, leaves the happy hour alone (for those of legal drinking age, of course). What would campus life, or for that matter, life in any city and town be on Friday afternoon after a hard week in class or at work without the means to let one’s hair down a little?

El País suggests that forbidding the happy hour means that henceforth, the government decrees that all hours are unhappy, something that Spain cannot afford, given the current state of the economy.

This is not the first time a Spanish health minister has taken a swipe at the drinks trade in Spain and the furor that Elena Salgado  (now the economy minister, go figure) caused was swiftly countered by the unanimous reaction of wineries, distilleries, brewers, distributors and restaurants. Ms. Salgado backed down on direct orders from the president of the government.

I say “long live the happy hour!” Spain deserves to be happy.