Rauner signs bill relaxing outdated liquor license restrictions

Rauner signs bill relaxing outdated liquor license restrictions

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 2436 on Aug. 2, a move that will increase local control over liquor licensure.

Local communities will now have more control over which businesses receive liquor licenses under a bill signed into law Aug. 2 by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Under the Liquor Control Act of 1934, the Prohibition-era law that governs Illinois’ system of liquor licensure, businesses located within 100 feet of a school, church or hospital are prohibited from obtaining liquor licenses. Previously, the only way businesses could avoid this restriction was through the passage of a bill in the General Assembly specifically granting them an exemption, followed by the governor’s signature.

Senate Bill 2436 gives local officials the authority to exempt businesses from the state’s liquor law, rather than leaving Springfield to grant special carveouts to politically connected businesses. According to state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, “Sixty-eight pages of the 72-page liquor control act are exemptions.”

In January, Rauner vetoed a bill that would have exempted one business from the liquor license restriction. Instead, the governor issued a letter urging lawmakers to reform the state’s broken liquor law. Unfortunately, lawmakers overrode Rauner’s veto the following month.

SB 2436 passed with strong bipartisan support in the General Assembly, and received the endorsement of advocacy groups such as the Small Business Advocacy Council, Illinois Chamber of Commerce and Illinois Restaurant Association.

However, there still remain other steps lawmakers could take to reform Illinois’ archaic liquor laws. The state’s “three-tier” liquor distribution system, in addition to restrictions on out-of-state imports, hurt consumers and small business owners alike. Moreover, the Prairie State’s sky-high alcohol taxes harm border-state businesses by sending shoppers across state lines.

Lawmakers should build on the momentum of SB 2436 and continue to enact reforms that target antiquated regulations.

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