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Happy Hour Laws

Happy Hour Laws

Approved by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC)



Nearly everyone can appreciate Happy Hour. After a long, hard day at work, the opportunity to kick back and relax with a few drinks is pretty enticing, and can definitely help take the edge off of any stresses you may have endured over the last 8 hours.

If you're a resident of Illinois, what can you expect to find at your local bar or pub during the all-important Happy Hour? Compared to other states throughout the country, you might be disappointed. Illinois employs some of the strictest Happy Hour laws in the nation... so if you were hoping to offer your customers some cheaper drinks for a couple of hours, you might want to think again.

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What is Happy Hour in Illinois?

Typically, Happy Hour is a period in the late afternoon and early evening in which businesses have specials on their drinks in order to entice the after-work crowd to come in and have a cocktail or two. While there is no state-mandated time period in which Happy Hour must run, many businesses will generally begin their Happy Hour around 4 or 5 p.m., and end it around 7 p.m.

Happy Hour Laws

In the state of Illinois, establishments are prohibited from doing any of the following during their Happy Hour:

  • Serving more than 2 drinks to a single person at a time
  • Offering drinks at a reduced price (i.e. "2 for 1" specials, or "$1 beers from 4 – 7 p.m.")
  • Create "unlimited" drink specials during any period of time
  • Increase the amount of liquor provided in any cocktail
  • Host any game or contest of any kind in which a prize is given for the consumption of alcohol

So if you can't take advantage of providing 2-for-1 drinks or discounted prices during Happy Hour, what CAN you offer? The state allows the following specials during an establishment's Happy Hour period:

  • Proving pitchers of beer at regular prices
  • Providing price discounts on food, or free food
  • Including alcoholic beverages as part of a special featured meal

It should be noted, however, that any discounted prices on food or products must be offered at that price for the entire day, not just during a 2 to 3-hour window. Therefore, the concept of "Happy Hour" is relegated to just a small part of an entire day's special, and isn't really a Happy Hour at all.

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Breaking Happy Hour Laws

If a licensed establishment fails to meet the above provisions for their Happy Hour, they face a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a possible fine and even suspension or revocation of that establishment's liquor license.

The best way for any business owner to prevent this scenario from occurring is to require all managers and employees to complete a state–approved Illinois BASSET Alcohol Certification course. This course instructs sellers and servers in all of the Illinois alcohol regulations, including Happy Hour laws. By putting together a well–informed staff, business owners can ensure that all laws are followed to the detail, while also keeping staff and customers safe during their time on the premises.