Below are some frequently asked questions regarding Public Act 99-0046 which went into effect on July 15, 2015.
(Note: The new law also allows “Infusions” and requires alcohol servers to be trained by a certain date; visit Infusions and Required Training Dates, respectively, for details on these aspects of the law):
Will I be able to offer “happy hour” specials by temporarily reducing the price of drinks at my establishment?
Yes. This legislation permits licensees to offer discounted drinks for up to 4 hours per day, and not more than 15 hours per week. The specified drink promotional period does not have to be for 4 consecutive hours.
What are the additional rules and restrictions on price reductions?
Licensees must adhere to the following stipulations on price reductions on drinks:
Licensee must give notice of the discount of alcohol drinks on the licensee’s premises or on their website 7 days prior to the specified drink promotion period.
Licensee shall not offer a specified drink promotion period between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and the licensed premise’s closing hour.
Licensee shall not change the price of an alcoholic drink during a single drink promotion period.
When can I start reducing prices as part of happy hour?
No earlier than 7 days after the license holder has given notice of the discount of alcohol drinks at its licensed location or on its website.
Can I provide unlimited drinks for a single price?
Drink limits are required unless the drinks are part of a meal package, party package or private function.
Am I allowed to sell “meal packages” with food and alcohol? What does that entail?
Yes. “Meal package” means a food and beverage package, which may or may not include entertainment, where the service of alcoholic liquor is an accompaniment to the food, including, but not limited to: a meal, tour, tasting, or any combination thereof for a fixed price by a retail licensee or any other licensee operating within a sports facility, restaurant, winery, brewery, or distillery.
Is there a limit on the number of drinks which may be served with a meal package?
No. There is no limit to the number of drinks included with a meal package.
What is considered “food” for purposes of a meal package?
Any food, including snacks and other so-called “finger food,” that is available on the licensed premises as long as the food and alcoholic drinks are sold as a package for a fixed price.
Am I allowed to sell “party packages,” such as wristband deals for a private event? What are the regulations?
Yes. “Party package” means a private party, function, or event for a specific social or business occasion, either arranged by invitation or reservation for a defined number of individuals, that is not open to the general public and where attendees are served both food and alcohol for a fixed price in a DEDICATED EVENT space. In order to sell a party package, a business must:
Offer food in the dedicated event space.
Limit the party package to no more than 3 hours.
Distribute wristbands, lanyards, or shirts that designate party package attendees.
Exclude individuals not participating in the party package from the dedicated event space.
Is there a limit on the number of drinks which may be served with a party package?
No. There is no limit on the number of drinks allowed to be included with a party package.
What is considered “food” for purposes of a party package?
Any food, including snacks and other so-called “finger food,” that is available on the licensed premises.
Private functions as defined in the Liquor Control Act (235 ILCS 5/1-3.36) have always been an exception to the prohibition on unlimited drinks; are private functions now limited to 3 hours?
No. Private functions such as weddings, private parties, fund-raising functions, etc., where “guests in attendance are served in a room or rooms designated and used exclusively for the private party, function or event” (235 ILCS 5/1-3.36) are not subjected to a time limit.
How can alcoholic drinks be sold and served to a customer during happy hour?
1) You may serve two or more drinks to one customer at one time; 2) You may not sell two or more drinks for the price of one drink; 3) You must increase the price of a drink proportionately to an increase in the volume of the same drink (Example: The price of a 24 ounce draft of Brand X beer must cost twice as much as a 12 ounce draft of Brand X beer).
Can I sell or serve a pitcher, bottle, carafe, bucket, flight, or similar container to one person during happy hour?
How does proportionate pricing apply to prices of a pitcher, bottle, carafe, bucket, flight, or similar container?
Proportionate pricing applies to individual drinks, not to pitchers, bottles, carafes, buckets, flight or similar containers. As long as a price reduction is not equal to selling 2 or more alcoholic drinks for the price of one, a retailer is free to set any price for a pitcher, bottle, carafe, bucket, flight or similar container.
Can I permit or encourage drinking games or contests at my licensed premises?
Can I still offer daily drink specials?
Yes, as long as the price of the drink special is listed on the mandatory schedule of drink prices.
May I advertise happy hour, meal packages, and party packages?
Yes. Events permitted under the Liquor Control Act may be legally advertised.
May I advertise events and drink specials permitted under the Happy Hour law on social media?
Yes. Social media advertising is allowed.