Illinois lawmakers on Sunday passed a bill to continue allowing bars and restaurants to serve cocktails to go, a measure that served as a lifeline to struggling businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The General Assembly first passed the initiative during the 2020 legislative session, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed it in June, to help bars and restaurants bring in more revenue as they struggled with closures during the pandemic. The measure passed last year included a provision requiring it to automatically expire after one year.
The Illinois House passed Senate Bill 104 on Thursday to update the measure and extend its sunset date to Jan. 1, 2024. The Senate passed the final version of the bill Sunday, sending it to Pritzker's desk. Pritzker has not yet indicated whether or not he plans to sign it.
Julia Momose, who owns Kumiko in the West Loop, was instrumental in getting the first bill passed last summer. She and other restaurant owners formed the “Cocktails for Hope” initiative to advocate for the sale of pre-mixed cocktails to-go in Illinois.
“It saved my business. In reality, if we did not get it passed last year, I would have had to close. Go into hibernation. I would have not have been able to hire back staff,” said Julia Momose, who owns Kumiko in the West Loop.
“We have proven ourselves to be responsible in serving the alcohol and our customers in the way they are purchasing from us and enjoying their drink safely at home,” Momose said.
Reed’s Local, a neighborhood tavern and music venue in Avondale, has seen a 30% revenue increase since selling their version of adult juice boxes to-go. The bar doesn’t serve food and had to stay closed longer than restaurants.
“It saved us during the pandemic. That was pretty much the only income we had for about a year,” said Melissa Genova Hill, the co-owner of Reed’s Local.
At Cesar’s on Broadway in Lakeview, to-go margaritas have helped owner, Israel Sanchez, generate a 15% increase in revenue.
“Everything has gone up exponentially, whether it’s labor, cost of goods, everything has gone up,” said Sanchez. “This extra revenue coming in with these margaritas to-go is huge because that balances off all of the extra expense we have.”
Under the law, cocktails must be sealed, labeled and out of reach in vehicles. A valid liquor license is required to sell the beverages and patrons have to be 21 years old to purchase.