Chicago's liquor code

A show of hands at Monday's East Village Association favored continued support for keeping liquor moratoria in place. A formal vote is anticipated in June.

To make for a more informed discussion Scott Rappe handed out this summary of the legal underpinnings of liquor control in Chicago.

Liquor License Restrictions and Special Regulations

Dry Wards: The Illinois Liquor Control Act of 1934 permits voters in any precinct in the City of Chicago to vote an entire precinct "dry" through a local option referendum. If a precinct has been voted "dry," no liquor licenses can be issued. Please check with the case manager to determine if your proposed location is "dry."

Liquor Moratorium Districts: The Chicago City Council has passed a series of ordinances restricting the issuance of liquor licenses in various locations throughout the city. These restrictions may apply to licenses for consumption on premises, taverns, private social clubs, and stores selling package goods. Restaurant services are generally not subject to these restrictions. The moratorium ordinances also significantly restrict the transfer of existing liquor establishments to new owners.

There are six limited exceptions in the liquor ordinance that permit existing locations in a moratorium to legally be transferred. The following transfers are permitted:

• Between spouses;
• Between parents and children;
• An heir of the prior license by estate succession or a will;
• Any shareholder who already held shares prior to the creation of the moratorium area;
• Any person acquiring less than 5% of the shares of a corporate licensee;
• Any other person who acquiring the licensed business by purchase if that person can obtain the consent of over 51% of the legal voters registered within 500 feet of the premises.

If the above exceptions do not apply to you, the transfer of a license may only be approved after the new applicant obtains the consent of 51% of the legal registered voters within 500 feet of the business.

Proximity to Churches, Schools, Homes for the Aged, Day Care Centers: Licenses for the retail sale of alcoholic liquor will not be issued for establishments within 100 feet of any church (some exceptions to this rule exist pertaining to locations near churches), school (other than an institution of higher learning), hospital, or home for the aged or indigent. In some cases, day care centers may be classified as schools.

Distances are measured in several ways: the distance from a church is measured from the property line of the licensed premises to the nearest part of any building used for worship services or educational programs; the distance from a school is measured from the property line of the school to the property line of the premises to be licensed. Streets, alleys and public ways are included in the measurements mentioned above.

Proximity to Libraries: Licenses for the retail sale of alcohol will not be issued to any establishment within 100 feet of any library, with the exception of the main library. Streets, alleys, and public ways are not included in the measurement from property lines of the library to the property line of the premises to be licensed.

Proximity to Other Taverns: No new tavern licenses can be issued to any location that is within 400 feet of existing businesses already licensed for the sale of alcoholic liquor in certain zoning districts. Measurements are made from the property line and exclude streets, alleys, and public ways. This prohibition does not apply to restaurants, hotels offering restaurant services, or not-for-profit clubs.

Types of Licenses

Tavern License (Fee $4,400/two years): Bars, nightclubs, taverns, pubs, and lounges are required to obtain a tavern license to sell and serve alcoholic beverages as the primary source of business. In other words, if the establishment’s business is to sell alcohol, to be consumed on the premises, a Tavern license is required. Patrons entering a tavern must be 21 or older. Persons under 21 may only enter a licensed tavern accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Taverns that offer live entertainment, charge admission for entry or have several amusement devices such as pool tables or arcade games may need a Public Place of Amusement license to conduct such activity.

Packaged Goods License (Fee $4,400/two years): This license is necessary for the retail sale of alcoholic liquor enclosed in the original manufacturer sealed and labeled container. Businesses requiring a packaged goods license include grocery stores, convenient stores, and liquor stores. Businesses that sell packaged goods are not permitted to sell alcohol to be consumed on the premises. Tasting is permitted but must comply with Illinois State regulations (Section 5/6-31 of the Illinois Liquor Control Act).

Consumption on Premises-Incidental Activity License (Fee $4,400/two years): Restaurants, hotels, banquet halls, theaters and bowling alleys that would like to sell liquor are required to have a Consumption on Premises-Incidental Activity (COP) license. In other words, this license is required for the retail sale of alcohol to be consumed on the premises at a place of business where the sale of alcoholic liquor is incidental or secondary to the primary activity.

Moratorium restrictions do not apply for restaurants seeking a COP license. However, moratorium restrictions may apply to other businesses seeking a COP license. Businesses with a COP typically require additional licenses depending on the business activity. For example, a public place of amusement license is needed for theaters to operate and a retail food license is required for a restaurant.

Conditional Approval: The City recognizes that opening a business is a major financial commitment that involves a large amount of risk. In order to minimize that risk, the City has established a conditional approval process for businesses applying for a Consumption on Premises-Incidental Activity License(COP), Packaged Goods or Tavern License. This process is useful for businesses that are planning for construction of a new facility or significant rehabilitation of an older facility. This process ensures business owners that a liquor license will be issued once the facility is completed.

Club License (not-for-profit club) (Fee $1,100/two years): A Club License can only be issued to a not-for-profit corporation, organized under the laws of the State of Illinois, solely for the promotion of some common object other than the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages. Such clubs must have been in active-and-continuous existence for at least three years with a membership roll of more than 50 members. Applicants seeking this license must have a City of Chicago Retail Food Establishment License along with a suitable and adequate kitchen and dining room for preparing and serving meals. Moratoriums restrictions against the issuance of a new Club License may apply.

Outdoor Patio (Fee $1,760/two years): An Outdoor Patio License is required to sell alcoholic liquor in a privately owned outdoor location adjacent to premises licensed as a Tavern, Not-for-Profit Club, or Consumption on Premises-Incidental Activity. An outdoor patio must close by 11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and midnight, Friday and Saturday. Live or recorded music may not be played or performed at any outdoor location licensed as an Outdoor Patio. Late Hour Licenses do not extend to an outdoor patio. Businesses that have a Retail Food Establishment license and wish to operate on the public sidewalk need to obtain a Sidewalk Cafe Permit.

Late Hour License (Fee $6,000/two years) Businesses wishing to remain open beyond the legal closing time of 2:00 a.m. may obtain a Late Hour Liquor License. This license is required for the additional privilege to remain open and permit the sale of alcoholic liquor until 4:00 a.m., Monday-Saturday, and until 5:00 a.m. on Sunday. Businesses holding a Tavern, Packaged Goods, or Consumption on Premises-Incidental Activity license are permitted to apply for a late hour license.
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