“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.