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Chicago’s New Midnight Cutoff for Alcohol Sales at Liquor Stores Matches New York

Chicago also extended the fee cap on DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats

A shelf full of bottles of tequila and liquor.
Chicago’s new liquor store curfew is seen as a compromise.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Over the weekend, late-night owls in Chicago adjusted to the new city ordinance that ended alcohol sales beyond midnight at liquor stores. This is seen as a compromise as Mayor Lori Lightfoot originally intended to halt sales at 10 p.m. as a means to curb crime by preventing loitering outside stores. Before the City Council took action Friday, Chicago’s liquor laws were among the most liberal in the country, allowing stores to sell until 2 a.m.

The seeds of the law were planted last year when the city imposed a 9 p.m. liquor store curfew during the height of the pandemic, pushed as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The cut-off time was later pushed to 11 p.m.

Bars and clubs aren’t affected. Beyond the “quality of life issues” that Lightfoot mentioned in May when she shocked council members as she quietly introduced her 10 p.m. proposal, some bar owners believe that the ordinance could give them more business. A late-night worker, such as an employee at a restaurant, won’t have the option of picking up a six-pick of beer at a store and consume at home. A bar, which lost business during the pandemic, will be a more enticing option.

Some Chicago liquor store owners worry about an even playing ground. If they’re close to the city’s boundaries, a customer could hop over to the suburbs and shop late night where sales are allowed past midnight. That won’t be a problem for locals near suburban Evanston where sales halt at 8 p.m. Oak Park and Berwyn’s laws permit sales until 1 a.m. For Berwyn, it’s until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

The midnight cut-off point matches New York and Washington, D.C.’s laws. LA, San Francisco, and Seattle’s liquor stores stop sales at 2 a.m. In Boston it’s 11 p.m. and in Houston, sales at liquor stores stop at 9 p.m. and grocery stores can sell until midnight.

The City Council on Friday also voted to extend a 15 percent cap on the fees third-party delivery companies like DoorDash and Uber Eats are allowed to charge restaurants, drawing out the pandemic-era rule until December.

Originally implemented in November 2020, the cap was designed to address the concerns of local restaurant and bar owners who reported delivery fees of 20 to 30 percent of what they charged customers on top of crushing indoor dining bans. Without on-premise dining, restaurants were relying on delivery service and said the fees were too high.

The cap was set to expire when dine-in capacity reached 40 percent for 60 consecutive days. That happened in late April when the city lifted more restaurant restrictions as vaccination rates increased.

Chicago’s bars and restaurants are now fully reopen to the public, but worries over a possible resurgence in high fees as the industry continues to recover has spurred officials to take action. Ald. (32nd Ward) Scott Waguespack submitted a proposal in April to extend the cap six months past the start of Phase 5 — the final phase of the city’s pandemic recover plan. The mayor included the extension in her sweeping Chi Biz Strong recovery package.

Officials on the West Coast, however, are going a step further: San Francisco on last week became the first city in the U.S. to pass a permanent 15-percent delivery fee cap following an unanimous vote by the city’s Board of Supervisors. DoorDash, Caviar, Uber Eats, and Postmates are all headquartered in San Francisco, while Grubhub is based in Chicago.

  • SF Is the First City in the Country to Pass a Permanent Cap on Delivery App Fees [Eater SF]
  • Chicago’s 15 Percent Delivery Fee Cap Extension Stalls [ECHI]
  • Chicago’s 15 Percent Delivery Fee Cap for Grubhub and DoorDash Has Expired [ECHI]
  • Chicago Finally Implements Fee Caps for Grubhub and DoorDash [ECHI]