United States: Illinois General Assembly Amends State's Liquor Control Act

Benjamin Schuster is an Associate and Hart Passman is a Partner in the Chicago office

New Law Allows Municipalities to Control Locations of Bars, Other Liquor Retailers

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Public Act 100-0663, recently signed into law, amends the Illinois Liquor Control Act. The amendment provides municipalities the authority to allow local liquor control commissioners to grant exemptions to the state's distance requirements for bars and liquor retailers.
  • Municipalities may permit bars and liquor retailers to be located within 100 feet of churches, schools and other protected uses.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner recently signed into law Public Act 100-0663, amending the Liquor Control Act (Act) (235 ILCS 5/1-1 et seq.) to give local governments the right to grant liquor licenses for locations that are within 100 feet of churches, schools and other protected uses. Before Public Act 100-0663, it took a special act of the Illinois state legislature to grant an exemption from those distance requirements. Now, the Act, signed by Gov. Rauner on Aug. 2, 2018, authorizes local liquor control commissioners to grant exemptions from the minimum distance requirements if the municipality adopts a local rule or ordinance authorizing such exemptions. This client alert provides a summary of the amendment.

Public Act 100-0663 Background

In Illinois, liquor retailers must obtain both a local liquor license from the municipality and a separate state license from the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. State licenses have been generally unavailable for any location within 100 feet of any church, school, hospital, home for aged or indigent persons or for veterans. 235 ILCS 5/6-11.

The state's minimum distance requirement has had a substantial impact on the location of liquor retailers, often preventing liquor retailers from selling liquor in locations otherwise well-suited for such commercial activity. If, for example, a church moves into a location near a municipality's main commercial street, it may preclude bars, brewhouses and liquor stores from locating on that street. The only relief from the minimum distance requirement has been by procuring a special legislative exemption in the Act itself to waive the requirement for a specific location. Currently, the Act contains more than such 70 exemptions.

Public Act 100-0663 does not eliminate the state's minimum distance requirement, but it gives municipalities the authority to waive the minimum distance requirement, and, thus, a way for liquor license applicants to obtain an exemption without the need for special legislation in Springfield.

Effective immediately, a local liquor control commissioner may grant an exemption to the state's minimum distance requirement if a local rule or ordinance authorizes the local liquor control commissioner to do so. This new law will give municipalities more control over the location of bars, brewpubs and liquor stores, and a new tool to more effectively plan their commercial districts. For example, municipalities may pass an ordinance providing that the local liquor control commissioner may exempt a liquor retailer from the state's distance requirement upon the approval of the municipality's corporate authorities.

Key Takeaways

As noted above, the new law applies only to municipalities that have authorized exemptions by local rule or ordinance. Municipalities seeking to take advantage of the newfound flexibility should consider adopting amendments to their local liquor regulations in order to do so. Municipalities seeking further information and guidance on this law and its impact may contact the authors.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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