IL: Governor signs bill allowing return of happy hours in Illinois bars
By Tobias Wall
July 15, 2015
Happy hour drink specials will make a comeback in Illinois under legislation signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The discounted drink specials have been banned in Illinois since the late 1980s over concerns about excessive drinking and impaired driving.
The measure signed Wednesday allows drink specials up to four hours each day and up to 15 hours a week. But it doesn’t allow volume specials like two drinks for the price of one or mega drinks. It also prohibits deals after 10 p.m.
Proponents say the change will produce more tax revenue for state and local governments through increased alcohol sales.
One of those proponents, Lloyd Cueto, who co-owns Pitchers Sports Pub & Pizzaria on West Main Street in Belleville, said bringing back happy hours will make his business more competitive.
“I can’t tell you how often I’ve had someone say, ‘Man, I was in Soulard or watching the game over in St. Louis and they had this great deal, they had this great happy hour special. Why don’t you guys do something like that?’” Cueto said Wednesday afternoon.
Now he can, and he expects a bump in business because of it.
“For us here, sporting events are our bread and butter. If you’re going somewhere to watch a Cardinals game, that’s a beer-drinking crowd, and they’re just going to seek out wherever the best deal is,” Cueto said.
State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, said he supported the legislation because it will mean more business for the entertainment industry while still limiting happy hours enough to avoid the problems that led to their banning in the first place.
“The restaurant community was supportive of it,” Hoffman said. He added it would put an end to businesses in border areas losing out on the money that thirsty deal-seekers have taken across state lines for 25 years.
Local police leaders weren’t bothered at the news that Rauner repealed the happy hour ban.
“It comes down to responsibility. If you’re a responsible person it doesn’t matter if you have happy hour or not. You’re going to do the responsible thing,” St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said. “I don’t think (banning happy hours) was ever necessary. It all comes down to individuals and how they conduct themselves.”
Watson said police strategy won’t change now that happy hours are back. He said that if someone has a problem and needs help, “we’re going to do what we have to do.”
Shiloh Police Chief Jim Stover agreed, saying having happy hours or not makes little difference to someone who wants to drink.
“If people are going to indulge, they’re going to indulge, whether it’s for a dollar or if it’s for $3.50,” he said.
But don’t expect to see neon signs proclaiming happy hours right away. The law takes effect immediately, but a provision states bar owners must advertise specials for a week in advance.