Why are there no open bars in Chicago? Is the city cracking down on happy hour?
Q Why are there no open bars in Chicago? Is the city cracking down on happy hour?
A The dearth of gratis booze stems from the Illinois Happy Hour Law that prohibits bars and restaurants from offering discounted or free alcohol. The law was enacted in 1989 “to eliminate the promotions that encourage overconsumption of alcohol that potentially leads to criminal acts,” says Katie Ridgway, spokeswoman for the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. The stringent law prohibits establishments from changing drink prices during business hours, giving liquor away as a prize or increasing the volume of a drink without increasing the price. Moreover, language in advertisements offering an unlimited number of drinks for a fixed price (i.e., a “hosted bar”) is a violation, except for private functions. “The ideal term to use is ‘private,’ ” says Mark Buot, general manager of Victor Hotel. “For example: ‘invite-only hosted bar,’ ‘private cocktail hour,’ ‘private cocktail reception.’ By making [the event] private or exclusive, the alcohol consumption can be controlled and limited, which is along the lines of the Happy Hour Law.” Proprietors who don’t comply face a $300 fine and the loss of their liquor license—and that makes no one happy.
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