PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The happy hour bill that passed the R.I. House on Tuesday is not going over well with some Rhode Islanders.
Families who’ve been impacted by drunk driving crashes are banding together to urge senators not to pass the legislation, fearing it will increase drunk driving in the state.
The Dennison, MacDonald, Passeretti and Andreozzi families, all of whom have been impacted by drunk driving crashes, gathered at the West Warwick ice rink Wednesday night to speak out against the bill.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Karen Alzate, passed the R.I. House 54-10 on Tuesday. It would allow establishments to offer discounted alcoholic beverages along with food, which is defined as any appetizer or entrée prepared on the premises.
“There were 54 members of the Rhode Island House of Representatives that failed our state. They chose to make our roads more dangerous than they already are,” Mark Dennison said.
“When we started this … this new mission of ours to make some meaningful changes to the drunk driving laws and penalties in the state, we thought we would be going on the offensive,” Dennison said. “Today, we’re on the defensive.”
Matthew’s best friend, Kevin MacDonald, was behind the wheel at the time of the crash and was also injured.
“Don’t OK this. Don’t pass this,” MacDonald’s mother Kristine Bouthillier pleaded. “This felt like a slap in the face … Like nothing that we’ve gone through, what we’re going through … it felt like none of it even mattered.”
But those in support of the bill argue that happy hour can be executed responsibly. Rick Simone, founder of the Ocean State Coalition, tells 12 News those against the proposal are missing the point.
“We don’t feel that there’s a correlation between what this bill is aiming to do, and what [the Dennison] family has been through,” Simone said. “The purpose of this bill is to promote people coming in at certain times to increase food and beverage sales when a business is not normally busy.”
“[Drinking] happens at all hours of the day, he added. “The majority of these happy hours are going to be in the early afternoon when things are monitored.”
But the families argue lives are more important than businesses.
“If [lawmakers] were in our place, would an extra dollar matter? I don’t think it would matter,” Dennison said. “I would give every dollar I have to have any of these children back.”
The bill now heads to the R.I. Senate for consideration.