No happy hour specials in Naperville -- for now

 
 
Updated 8/10/2015 5:54 PM

Happy hour usually means grabbing drinks with co-workers after a long day on the job.

And it also means a narrow window to take advantage of specials at the bar, probably from 4 to 6 p.m., Naperville Liquor Commissioner Scott Wehrli says.

 

But a new state law not only overturns a ban on happy hour in Illinois but extends that perceived window -- until 10 p.m.

"I think it's a mistake to mirror (the law) for sure," Wehrli said.

After several Naperville businesses asked for the city's stance on the law, the liquor commission decided to table a decision on any changes to Naperville code and keep the city's prohibitions on happy hour deals in place -- for now.

But police say they're concerned about loosening the city's rules after such regulations led to declines in fighting and other crime downtown.

Last year, the city imposed a ban on specials that decrease the price of a drink to less than half of its regular cost, among a series of restrictions, after a fatal crash, a brawl and other crimes fueled by alcohol.

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"We enacted all those happy hour laws to stop problems," Detective Mark English told the liquor commission.

The state law, signed July 15 by Gov. Bruce Rauner, permits establishments to offer happy hour specials for up to four hours a day until 10 p.m. and up to 15 hours a week. It also allows businesses to advertise the specials a week beforehand.

Naperville code can be more restrictive than the law, but not less, city attorney Kavita Athanikar said. The city also could adopt a hybrid of provisions from the state law or its code. Instead, the liquor commission voted unanimously last week to postpone a vote on such changes indefinitely.

Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Steve Chirico acknowledged that the city's collar bars and restaurants could lose out to businesses in neighboring towns that allow happy hour.

"Establishments on the Aurora side would be able to advertise for happy hour and (those) on the Naperville side could be at a disadvantage and not be able to," Chirico said. "And so that's certainly something I would be somewhat sympathetic to."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But he also said those businesses have other options to do promotions.

Commissioner Joe Vozar said he'd like to gauge how other suburbs respond to the law and what businesses favor. Of the establishments that contacted the city, most supported allowing happy hour and a few were against relaxing the restrictions, Athanikar said.

"I lived through this in the '70s and '80s, and there was a reason Illinois abolished it," Vozar said. " ... I think if we do go down this path, we need to be very careful."

Commissioner Marc Blackman said Naperville's night life is "very vibrant" and doubted whether businesses would profit from happy hour.

"I think there's a lot of demand to come here," he said. "I don't understand why selling more alcohol over a tighter period of time enhances that."

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