Beer Politics: The Zombie Bill

In Beer Politics by Ryan1 Comment

There is a bill that has been on the fringe of our radar all legislative session, dealing with local liquor control commission’s and their authority to shut down an unruly establishment. The bill has remained on the fringe because it keeps getting shot down. But, Just like a good zombie thriller this bill keeps coming back – and now it’s picking up some steam.

While we were busy celebrating downstate brewers on Tuesday, lobbyists were working feverishly to board up the windows and keep this bill from making it to the full House. But it did. Senate Bill 1531 House Amendment 4, sponsored by State Representative Esther Golar (D-Chicago), passed the Illinois House Executive Committee 7-4.

So what exactly does this measure do and why does it have lobbyists representing bars and restaurants scrambling? For that, we go straight to the bill (emphasis added):

“If the premises for which a license was issued are located within a city, village, or incorporated town having a population of 1,000,000 or more inhabitants and the local liquor control commissioner has reason to believe that any continued operation of the licensed premises poses an excessive risk to the health, safety, or welfare of the community, then the local liquor control commissioner may, upon the issuance of a written order stating the reason for that conclusion and without notice or hearing, order the licensed premises closed for not more than 30 days, giving the licensee an opportunity to be heard during that period, provided that, if the licensee is also engaged in the conduct of another business on the licensed premises, the order shall not apply to the other business.”

This bill would essentially give a local liquor control commission, Chicago’s in fact, carte blanche authority to shut down any bar it wants to.

Now, could this come in handy when the patrons of an unruly establishment are causing damage to neighboring homes and putting residents at risk? Absolutely. Could it also be used for less genuine purposes? You betcha.

This could, realistically, spell doom for a lot of establishments in the city. Without defining phrases like, “poses an excessive risk to the health, safety, or welfare of the community,” you leave a lot open to interpretation. And sometimes, that’s a bad thing.

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A long-time political reporter, Ryan spearheads Guys Drinking Beer's in-depth coverage of beer news and craft beer legislation in Illinois and beyond. When he’s not digging through the annals of state government he’s looking for unique beers to cellar.