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Happy hour remains illegal in Carbondale

Geoffrey Ritter
Carbondale Times

“Happy hour” may be coming back to Illinois, but it isn’t yet a sure thing in Carbondale as leaders wade through a section of the city code that still prohibits such drink specials.

Last week, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation that allows the return of “happy hour” drink specials at bars and taverns throughout the state for the first time since they were banned in 1989, but Carbondale’s ordinance regarding the sale of alcohol still expressly forbids it.

Carbondale’s status as a home rule municipality allows it to have an ordinance contradicting state law provided nothing in the state law specifically forbids such variation, as is the case with any ongoing local prohibitions on happy hours.

The new state law allows bars to offer discounts on alcoholic beverages for up to four hours a day and up to 15 hours a week, provided they are pre-advertised and do not take place after 10 p.m.

The law does not allow drinks to be given away as prizes, and it maintains a prohibition on two-for-one specials. Bars also are prohibited from offering unlimited drinks for a fixed price.

Meanwhile, Title 2 of the Carbondale Revised Code specifically prohibits offering drinks “on any one date at a reduced price other than that charged other purchasers of drinks on that day where such reduced price is a promotion to encourage consumption of alcoholic liquor.” Local ordinance also prohibits other practices still banned under the new state law.

City Manager Kevin Baity says city staff is still working through what impact the new state law has on Carbondale.

“Because we are a home rule community we have passed ordinances which are not affected by the recent action of the state,” Baity said. “The only item that it clearly relates to is the BASSET training (Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training); all employees will now have to be trained versus 50 percent.”

Baity said the BASSET requirement won’t take effect until 2017.

City Attorney Mike Kimmel said the city would have to make a change to the ordinance if it wants to enjoy the same happy hours now open to other cities in the state. He said it would require action by the city council, although similar actions in the past usually have included the city’s Liquor Advisory Board.

“There is no requirement,” Kimmel said of the issue going before the Liquor Advisory Board, “but historically, the council has asked for guidance.”

Mayor Mike Henry said he was still familiarizing himself with the issue, but he agreed the council would have to make a change to city ordinance and that it would go before the Liquor Advisory Board. 

“We would just need to draw up an ordinance,” Henry said.

Officer safe after Sunday night chase

Carbondale Times

A Carbondale Police officer sustained only minor injuries following a Sunday night incident that began with a man allegedly attacking patrons at a bar in Dowell and ended with him crashing head-on into a Carbondale Police car.

Police arrested Grant D. Choate, 24, following the Sunday evening incident, which ended with a crash at the intersection of Poplar and West Sycamore streets in Carbondale.

Choate now faces charges of unlawful possession of a stolen vehicle, aggravated battery and aggravated fleeing of police and is due in Jackson County court for a preliminary hearing Aug. 6.

Jackson County Sheriff’s deputies first responded about 10:30 p.m. July 19 to the Veteran’s Inn Tavern in Dowell regarding a suspect allegedly trying to fight patrons outside the bar. Choate reportedly was throwing bricks and chairs at some patrons and struck one in the head with a shovel.

He then allegedly attempted to steal two motor vehicles, although he was unsuccessful. The victim struck in the head with the shovel flagged down a first responder, however, and Choate allegedly stole that vehicle. Choate then allegedly drove it to the Casey’s in Elkville and attempted to buy gas, but he allegedly drove away when confronted by two patrol units, tearing the nozzle and hose out of the gas pump.

Patrol units pursued the vehicle further south on Rt. 51, and Choate reportedly refused to stop even as he entered Carbondale. Units pursued Choate through neighborhoods on Carbondale’s northwest side, but the chase came to an abrupt halt when Choate reportedly lost control of the vehicle after rounding a corner and collided head-on with a police cruiser. Authorities then took him into custody.

The collision left the front end of the police car seriously damaged, although Interim Chief Jeff Grubbs said Tuesday that the officer’s injuries were minor and “mainly from the deployment of airbags.” Grubbs commended personnel from both his department and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

“Officers from both agencies performed admirably,” Grubbs said. “It certainly was a dangerous situation.”