Earlier this week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker made to-go cocktails legal in Illinois but across the state, the law is still subject to local approvals. For Chicago, sales remain illegal, and even before last week’s police brutality protests, Mayor Lori Lightfoot gave no indication that she would fast track to-go cocktails. The City Council’s next meeting is June 17 which is the earliest Lightfoot says the council could address the matter. Realistically, council members will discuss the changes and bar owners will have to wait until July for to-go cocktails for legalization in Chicago.
Pritzker signed the bill on Tuesday. There are restrictions: drinks need to be stored in a vehicle’s trunk and third-party services are barred from making deliveries. While bars across the state were waiting for a stream of income, legislators came up with a nickname for the bill: “Booznibus,” according to the Tribune. Illinois joins states like California and New York that approved changes to the law weeks ago.
Still, Pritzker’s action has encouraged some Chicago bars and restaurants to start selling them this week. That’s a practice that a few scofflaws began in late March — there’s also underground cocktail services. These business owners aren’t fearful of enforcement, believing the city would be shameful in fining them as they recover from COVID-19 pandemic. That spirit lifted restaurant owners on Wednesday when the city allowed dine-in restaurants to reopen for outdoor dining. A few restaurants in Old Town and River North defied the 9 p.m. curfew instituted by the mayor over the weekend to curb the vandalism that came after the peaceful police brutality protests.
Pritzker’s signature is still a victory for bar owners looking for ways to make money during the pandemic which has closed taverns since March 17. Restaurants grabbed a lifeline Wednesday when they started to serve customers outdoors. Cocktails are how bars make money thanks to their higher profit margins. Julia Momose, a prominent Chicago bartender who is a partner at Kumiko in West Loop, says to-go cocktails can make five times as much profits compared to home cocktail kits.
Several restaurant owners are anxiously awaiting the city’s OK. That includes Danielle Dang, the co-owner of Hai Sous, the modern Vietnamese restaurant in Pilsen. Dang says she’s got one to-go drink ready. It’s called the “Mint Julia.” The drink pays homage to Momose for her efforts with Cocktails for Hope, the campaign that convinced lawmakers to act. Dang says she hopes to soon announce plans to reopen her Pilsen restaurant which she runs with husband and chef Thai Dang.