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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Let’s Meet For Happy Hour!

That’s right, you and your squad will soon be able to utter those words in Illinois and have them really mean something.

You may not have noticed, but in 1989 the General Assembly banned Happy Hours at licensed establishments. The purpose of the ban was to curb binge drinking. Licensed establishments got around the Happy Hour ban by having all day drink specials, which may be one reason you never noticed Happy Hour missing. Evidence collected since 1989 demonstrated that the ban had little to no effect on binge drinking. In a triumph of evidence-based public policy-making over government directed social controls, Happy Hour can now be put back on the menu, assuming the Governor signs Senate Bill 398, which recently passed both houses..

The bill, if enacted, would make several amendments to the Liquor Control Act, 235 ILCS 5/1-1 et seq. (“Act”), including reinstituting Happy Hour.  A new Section 6-28.5 would allow licensed establishments to “discount any drink…during a specified time period”, in other words “Happy Hour”. The Happy Hour allowance comes with the following restrictions:

1. The price of a drink during Happy Hour cannot be changed;
2.  Happy Hour is limited to four hours per day;
3.  Happy Hours may not exceed 15 hours per week, but the time may be divided in any manner over the course of the week;
4.  Happy Hour may not occur after 10 P.M.; and 
5.  Happy Hour times and pricing must be posted at a licensed establishment or on its website at least seven days prior to the Happy Hour event.

Certain drink specials will still be prohibited, including two drinks for the price of one (a.k.a. “two-fers”) and jumbo specials (e.g. large volume drinks for the price of standard drinks). However, licensed establishments will be able to sell pitchers, buckets, carafes, and offer liquor bottle service.

One question municipalities and counties will likely have is whether they can further restrict or prohibit Happy Hour under the local powers in Section 5/4-1 of the Act. Those powers are fairly extensive and are designed to ensure for strong local control of licensed establishments, including the power to determine the kind and number of liquor licenses available in the municipality (or county) as well as the power to further regulations and restrictions upon the issuance of and operations under local licenses. The new Happy Hour provisions do not contain an express preemption of local control on the scope of regulations they may impose on licensees wanting to have Happy Hours, which conceivably could include an outright ban on Happy Hours. 

Post Authored by David Silverman, Ancel Glink


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