After 26 years of being illegal, happy hour is now back in the Land of Lincoln.
The Culinary and Hospitality Modernization Act was signed into law by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner on July 15, making happy hour legal again, effective immediately.
In an effort to curb drunk driving, a 1989 law outlawed happy hour in the state; the concern arose from the idea that patrons were likely to binge drink in order to take advantage of happy hour specials and later drive home drunk.
But with Chicago emerging as a “culinary destination,” as Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, who sponsored the bill, told Crain’s Chicago Business, the smart thing to do was to “make Illinois and Chicago a more business-friendly environment for the hospitality industry.”
The bill passed with strong support in both the state House (82-31) and Senate (52-1).
Happy hour is in, but 2-for-1 specials are out
The new legislation allows establishments to serve discounted drinks up to 4 hours a day or 15 hours a week. It also removes a previous restriction on selling 2 or more drinks to 1 patron at once and now lets restaurants pair food and alcoholic beverages, which had previously been against the law.
However, this does not mean Illinois residents can expect an around-the-clock free-for-all. Happy hour can’t go past 10 pm, and Illinois alcohol law still prohibits 2-for-1 deals and bottomless drinks, except at private events or as part of a “package.”
Illinois is far from the only state with such alcohol laws. Even with Illinois reinstating happy hour, there are still 11 states that outlaw it: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Vermont.
So what’s going on in other states? Which states make it nearly impossible to get a drink special, and which states are practically putting a piña colada in your hand as soon as you cross the border? Read on to find out.
3 states that might kill your buzz
North Carolina is not the place to go for happy hours, buy-1-get-1-free specials, or “ladies’ nights,” as all these promotions are illegal. Also, bartenders may not serve more than 1 drink to 1 person at a time.
Massachusetts is also raining on the booze parade. Like North Carolina, the state prohibits happy hour, “ladies’ nights,” 2-for-1 deals, bottomless drinks, and the sale of more than 1 drink to 1 person at a time. The state also prohibits drinking contests, awarding alcohol as a prize, and giving away free drinks. Not only that, but out-of-state drivers’ licenses and IDs may not be accepted as proof of age in some establishments, as restaurants and bars are not legally protected if they then unknowingly serve a minor.
In Utah, don’t expect happy hours, don’t plan on buying kegs, and don’t ask to be served alcohol in a restaurant with a liquor license unless you’re also eating. One of the most interesting things about Utah’s liquor laws is what’s known as the “Zion curtain,” the partition between mixologists and patrons that keeps impressionable minds from seeing how drinks are made. One bill has proposed tearing down the curtain, but that hasn’t happened yet.
3 states to get your drink on*
Nevada doesn’t have many of the pesky rules that other states have when it comes to buying and selling alcohol, with the exception of age limit—sorry, but you still have to be 21 to drink. And, not only is public intoxication not illegal, but Nevada law says that local legislation cannot make it illegal. It’s important to note, however, that disturbing the peace and urinating in public are still prohibited.
Louisiana is one of several states where parents or guardians can legally buy alcoholic beverages for their minor children and where someone over 21 can legally purchase alcohol for a spouse who is under 21. But what really sets Louisiana apart, besides the many municipalities that let you drink on the streets, is the state’s penchant for drive-through frozen daiquiri stands. Just don’t stick a straw in your cup, or you might get in trouble for violating open-container laws.
And finally, Missouri has some of the laxest liquor laws in the country—who knew? As in Nevada and Louisiana, state law does not prohibit drinking in public, and just like Nevada, Missouri lets guardians provide alcohol to minor children and doesn’t make public intoxication a crime. But it goes even further: although some municipalities differ, the state as a whole has no open-container laws, meaning that passengers can drink in transit. (Drivers obviously cannot. This is Missouri, not the Old West.)
*Please drink responsibly, no matter what state you’re in.