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Happy Hour Specials Are Back On The Menu For Illinois Restaurants, For Better Or Worse

By Jim Bochnowski in News on Jul 16, 2015 10:15PM

Who said nothing gets done in Springfield? Thanks to your elected representatives, for the first time since 1989 bars in Illinois are now able to offer Happy Hour specials.

Wednesday, Gov. Bruce Rauner officially signed the "Culinary and Hospitality Modernization Act" into law, which will allow bars and restaurants to offer limited-time special drink deals to customers.

Specifically, the law, which you can read here, allows restaurants and bars to offer discounted beer, wine and spirits for up to four hours a day or at the most sixteen hours a week. There are limitations to the law, as bars will be forbidden from offering two for one drink specials and will be unable to offer the discounts after 10 p.m.

The Illinois Restaurant Association strongly lobbied in favor of the legislation, saying "the culinary and hospitality industry is operating under archaic and restrictive laws that do not reflect the needs and current practices of today's businesses" and that the bill would "help Illinois compete with global tourism destinations like Florida and California." That's assuming our number one priority when planning a vacation is finding a spot with good Happy Hour specials, apparently.

Not every restaurant owner is pleased with the prospect of this law, however. In a New York Times editorial in June, Bill Jacobs, the owner of Piece Brewery and Pizzera, came out strongly against the measure, saying:

"Happy hour discounts encouraged excessive drinking during a short period of time. People were getting drunk off cheap drinks, driving drunk and causing harm (and sometimes death) to themselves and others."

With new law now in effect, Jacobs told Chicagoist in an email Thursday that he hopes it won't have dire consequences.

"We will observe the ramifications over time, and I'm afraid there will be tragic results," he wrote. "I hope I'm wrong."

The law also requires everyone who serves alcohol in Illinois to complete a "Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training," which aims to train servers to be able to spot problem drinkers and prevent DUIs. It also legalizes an assortment of other liquor-related practices such as house-infused spirits and bundling drink pairings with food menus.

While the law goes into effect immediately, the bar or restaurant will be required to post their drink specials at least one week in advance. So be on the lookout for specials next week.