clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Happy Hour Drink Specials Close to Returning to Illinois

The bill, which was approved by the House and Senate, would allow hourly drink discounts.

Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Happy Hour drink specials, banned in 1989 by state lawmakers, should soon return to Illinois. The state senate on Sunday approved a bill that once again legalizes these drink specials with the hope of giving bar owners a boost to business. The House passed the bill last week, Crain's reported. Now all it needs is Gov. Bruce Rauner's signature.

Before the passage of the bill, bars were allowed to offer daily drink specials — for example $3 domestic pints on Mondays. However, any specials that lasted for only part of that day were illegal. So, no $1 off Appletinis from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., for example. Under the law, while workers living in Illinois would often go out together for drinks, they'd never really enjoy a true happy hour.

The Culinary and Hospitality Modernization Act (SB398) lifts that restriction, allowing bars to post specials for a maximum of four hours a day or 15 hours per week. The specials can't be created on a whim; they must be posted seven days prior. Specials also can't happen after 10 p.m. Crain's also pointed out that the bill allows for servers to pour house-infused spirits. That's a law that's often ignored.

Not all discounts seen in other states are allowed. For example, the bill maintains the banning of two-for-one drink sales. The Illinois Restaurant Association backed the bill, telling lawmakers it's a way to increase the state's ailing tax base through more customers taking advantages of drink discounts. There's a trade-off for bar and restaurant owners: In exchange for happy hour specials they relented to allow mandatory training for all state alcohol servers.

How much will happy hour help bars? Will this law entice more customers to bars, restaurants and hotels? How do servers feel about this? Sound off in the comments.