Legal Considerations for the Return of Happy Hour in Illinois

Legal Considerations for the Return of Happy Hour in Illinois

With one swift flourish of a pen, Illinois governor Bruce Rauner ushered in more happiness to after-work bar scenes than the state has seen since happy hours were banned in 1989.  As any traveler to the state knows, walking into a bar in any town and asking about the “specials” was often met with a shake of the head and a full-price bar menu.  It is important for anyone living in or visiting Illinois to know how this law may affect them, and what legal consequences may follow its implementation.

Lifting of the Ban

Illinois banned bars and restaurants from having designated ‘happy hours’ by legislation in 1989.  The law was passed in an attempt to curb drunk driving and other alcohol-related issues.  Not only did this law prohibit the designation of happy hours, it also prohibited alcohol-food pairings, such as a “burger/beer dinner special.”  The thought behind a total ban on happy hours and other types of alcohol specials is that such promotions encourage bar patrons to drink more in a shorter period of time so that they get the most “bang for their buck.”

Proponents of the previous ban on happy hours and other drink specials cited to increases in alcohol-related problems such as increased rowdy behavior, property damage, and drunk driving incidents in their attempts to defeat the new legislation.  Studies, however, did not necessarily show any significant decrease in these types of behaviors with the removal of drink specials around the time Illinois implemented the ban.  One such study, conducted in Ontario, Canada, found that there were no significant pre-ban versus post-ban differences in alcohol consumption by its bar patrons, and no significant differences in aggregate alcohol sales.  Whether this will ring true in Illinois now that the ban is lifting is the question on many people’s minds as the effects of the law begin to be seen.

Legal Issues

As the new law takes hold and more establishments begin to roll out drink specials to entice customers to open their wallets, patrons and bar owners alike should be cautious to avoid any related legal troubles.  Bar owners and employees should be sure that they are aware of Illinois’ dram shop law, which can be used by someone injured by a drunk patron to recover damages suffered as a result of the sale of alcohol to that person.  Along those same lines, patrons who are eager to take advantage of the new alcohol specials should use caution and drink responsibly so as to avoid the potential losses associated with drinking and driving.  Anyone who has been injured by an individual who took advantage of a newly created happy hour should be aware of their right to monetary damages that can help them on their path to recovery.  Illinois’ personal injury statutes were designed to protect citizens who are injured due to no fault of their own, regardless of whether the fault lies with a bar owner, irresponsible patron, or both.

The Law Offices of Robert T. Edens


If you or someone you know has been injured by someone who took advantage of their local bar’s new happy hour or specials, call the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C. in Antioch today.  We can discuss the legal issues surrounding your injury and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.



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