Pandemic cocktails to-go gets extension in Illinois

Pandemic cocktails to-go gets extension in Illinois

Illinois was one of 14 states that made it legal for restaurant and bar owners to deliver cocktails or sell them to-go as a survival tactic during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. J.B. Pritzker just signed the bill to extend the policy into 2028.

Illinois bars and restaurants can continue selling cocktails to-go into 2028 now that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill extending the pandemic-era policy.

Senate Bill 89 included language to allow bars and restaurants to sell and deliver cocktails to customers until Aug. 1, 2028, more than four years after the law was set to expire. Pritzker signed the bill May 31.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 20 states and the District of Columbia have introduced laws permanently allowing businesses to deliver and sell cocktails to-go. Fourteen other states passed legislation temporarily allowing the practice, including Illinois.

Illinois restaurants and bars first began selling cocktails to-go in June 2020, three months after Pritzker used his emergency powers to order all food and drink establishments to close.

Owners and advocates argued the mixed drinks to-go policy was necessary to keep struggling businesses afloat after they lost revenues from indoor diners.

The prior cocktail to-go law extension passed in 2021 and was set to expire June 1, 2024.

Illinois had 25,488 eating and drinking establishments in 2018 prior to the pandemic, with an estimated $30.1 billion in sales, according to the Illinois Restaurant Association. At the time, the industry employed 588,700 Illinoisans.

In 2021, the association found Illinois had 26,033 eating and drinking establishments earning an estimated $34 billion in sales. But data shows just 526,500 residents worked in restaurant or food service jobs at the height of the pandemic.

Illinois Department of Employment Security data shows the state was still missing 38,000 hospitality jobs, which include restaurant and bar workers, in March 2023 – three years after the first pandemic closures.

According to another 2023 report from One Fair Wage, more than 1 in 7 Illinois restaurant workers who lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic still have not returned to the industry.

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