Raise your glasses, the 1989 ban on happy hours in Illinois ended on July 15, 2015. Well, kind of.

“Happy Days” have been allowed throughout Illinois wherein bars and restaurants were welcome to offer drink specials on certain days, so long as the price remains for the entire day (including after midnight to close).

GUIDE: Are You Allowed To Bring Alcohol On A Plane?
GUIDE: Traveling with Cremated Remains – TSA and Airline Rules
GUIDE: Are You Allowed To Smoke E-Cigarettes On A Plane?

Now, the new law, effective immediately upon the Governor signing it on July 15, 2015, allows for happy hour pricing with certain restrictions. Also, the new law addresses other aspects of the service of alcohol which are detailed below. Note that these are state law changes, as local ordinances and rules (established by the local liquor commissioner) may be more restrictive and are not preempted by these laws.

Illinois happy hour law

Newest Illinois happy hour law finally allows hourly drink specials for customers, with limits.

5 Things You Need To Know About The New Illinois Happy Hour Law (as of July 15, 2015):

1. Discounted drinks before 10pm are okay, but NO 2-for-1 specials.
Retail establishments now may reduce drink prices for segments of a day so long as the total happy hours do not exceed four hours in one day or a total of 15 hours in a week. Furthermore, these drink specials cannot be offered between 10pm and close, and must be advertised at least seven days in advance. The last qualifier would seem to be satisfied should the licensee publish the deals on its website on an ongoing basis or even merely having a “DRINK DEALS” sign up in the bar, so long as those prices are “published” for at least a week.

The new law continues the ban on BOGO specials such as buy one drink, get one free or any similar combination.

2. Unlimited drink specials are for the invite-only crowds.
“Open Bar” specials have been a popular sales promotion by bars across Illinois, especially in Chicago. While the prior law limited the unlimited service of alcohol to “private functions,” that definition was very, very broadly applied, whether legally or not.

The new law seems to further clarify this practice of allowing open bar service for a non-public group of patrons inside an establishment. In the past, I could walk up to numerous bars and accept an open offer to purchase a wristband to unlimited drinks for a set time period. Sometimes you would have to say you were part of some “private” party, but let’s just say the doorman were more interested in collecting the open bar charge than verifying any real affiliation.

Now, the new law only allows “party packages” to be sold by a licensee for open bar if such a private function includes:

  1. Food;
  2. A “dedicated event space”;
  3. Maximum 3 hours in length;
  4. IDs such patrons with wearable identifiers e.g. wristbands, t-shirts, etc.; and
  5. Excludes the public from the dedicated event space.


3. Pitchers and bottle service? No problem!
The new law also clarifies that establishments may (continue to) sell pitchers, buckets, carafes, and offer liquor bottle service. The old law required the service of these items had to be to 2 or more persons, but the new law seems to have a more broad allowance and possibly leave it up to the Illinois Administrative Code to further define “bottle service” and the like, or to local ordinances to control (or ban) such service.

The new language is:

[An establishment may] sell pitchers (or the equivalent, including, but not limited to, buckets of bottled beer), carafes, or bottles of alcoholic liquor which are customarily sold in such manner, or sell bottles of spirits.

Illinois happy hour law

If you’re having bottle service alone, you likely are not having a very happy hour or otherwise. Or at least you will not in the morning.

4. Infusion mixtures cannot linger behind the bar!
You know those delicious interesting “infusion” drinks displayed behind the bar? There is a popular bar just down the street from my office here in Illinois which hosts a 3-4 gallon (est.) glass container with some “famous homemade pineapple tequila” concoction. While I hear it is delicious, my curiosity to taste it has always been trumped by my curiosity of how long has that been sitting there!?

This new happy hour law adds an entire new statutory section regarding such “infusions” and how they must be prepared and stored (235 ILCS 5/6-22.5 new). Infusions are defined as “a spirit where ingredients, including, but not limited to, fruits, spices, or nuts, are added to naturally infuse flavor into the spirit.”

In general, they must be:

  1. Mixed and stored on-site;
  2. Have a lid and stored in “sanitary condition”;
  3. Aged not more than 14 days;
  4. Consumed or disposed or within 21 days of end of aging (therefore, no infusion can be greater than 35 days old);
  5. Accompanied with cleaning records on the contain, available for inspection; and
  6. Labeled with: date mixed, base spirit, date aged out, date must be destroyed.

So, before you ask your neighborhood barkeep for a taste of their special infusion, FIRST ask for the expiration date on the jug!

5. Statewide training is required of servers.
Anyone serving alcohol must complete Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training (BASSET) which includes proper age identification of customers and efforts to reduce over-serving of alcohol, essentially a mandatory lesson in how to recognize when someone has had enough to drink, and should be served some food and water instead of more booze.

It is illegal for retail liquor licensees and their employees to sell, give and/or deliver alcoholic beverages to any intoxicated person in Illinois (235 ILCS 5/6-16(a)), not to mention wrong and a huge risk to their dram shop insurance.

Illinois happy hour law

Statewide server training is required in hopes of reducing over-serving customers and drunk driving.

New Illinois Happy Hour Law
Public Act 99-0046 (SB 398), Effective Date July 15, 2015
Text: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/99/099-0046.htm

  • Locations: Local Liquor Control Commissioner may grant an exception to prohibitions of sale of liquor near church, school, etc. if local rule or ordinance authorizes the granting of such an exception. 235 ILCS 5/6-11(a-5 new). UPDATED: This portion of the new law was immediately stricken by a subsequent law (Public Act 99-47).
  • Infusions: Defines “Infusions” and how they must be prepared and stored (235 ILCS 5/6-22.5 new):
    – mixed and stored on-site.
    – infusion container must have a lid and stored in “sanitary condition”.
    – infusion cannot be “aged” more than 14 days; must be used or disposed w/in 21 days of end of aging (therefore, no infusion can be greater than 35 days old).
    – keep cleaning records on said container, available for inspection.
    – infusion container labeled with: date mixed, base spirit, date aged out, date must be destroyed.
  • Training: Alcohol server training requirements. See 235 ILCS 5/6-27.1(a); 77 Ill. Adm. Code 3500.
  • Happy Hour:
    CANNOT: (235 ILCS 5/6-28)
    – Sell more than 1 drink for price of 1 drink (no 2 for 1 specials).
    – Unlimited drinks for a price, except for “party packages” (see 235 ILCS 5/6-28.5).
    – Increase volume of drink or size without same proportion of price charged.
    – No drinking games or prizes.
    – No advertising of such prohibitions.
    CAN: (235 ILCS 5/6-28.5 new)
    – Offer free food, entertainment.
    – Include drinks as a meal/hotel package.
    – Offer unlimited drinks in a “party package” if: (1) includes food, (2) in “dedicated event space”, (3) max 3 hours, (4) IDs such patrons w/wearable identifiers, (5) excludes public from said space.
    – Sell pitchers and bottle service.
    – Include drinks as part of an “entertainment package” with specific qualifications (see 235 ILCS 5/6-28.5(b)(9)).
    – 4 hours max/day; 15 hours max/week.
    – As long as they are advertised at least 7 days in advance.
    – Not after 10 p.m. – close.



Subscribe in the sidebar!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.