Illinois: Illinois legislation would allow minors to drink in restaurants

Monday, March 20, 2017 4:26:00 PM

Source: Herald-Whig

By Matt Dutton

Mar. 14, 2017


Quincy restaurant owners are unsure about the ramifications of a bill that would allow older minors to drink in their restaurants.


If approved, Illinois House Bill 0494 would permit minors ages 18 to 20 to legally consume alcohol in restaurants when accompanied by their parents or legal guardians.


"It's kind of shocking, actually," said Ron Frese, owner of Pops Pizza, 936 Maine. "I'm curious whether it will be up to the restaurant to decide whether or not they will do it. Isn't the restaurant going to be liable for that young kid?"


Frese views the bill as essentially promoting or encouraging underage drinking.


House Bill 0494 excludes hard liquor, permitting minors to partake in only beer or wine. It also specifies that alcohol cannot be the "principal business carried out on those premises," which would eliminate bars and taverns from the equation.


"It's definitely a negative, but it doesn't surprise me in Illinois anymore," Frese said. "It probably would help business with the drinking side of things, but I don't know if that's a positive business or not."


Even if it becomes legal, Frese said he would not feel comfortable serving a minor in his restaurant. The bill does not specify whether compliance with the law would be up to the discretion of the business owner.


"I don't know who comes up with these ideas, but it was working perfectly well the way it was," said Mark Neiswender, owner of the Patio, 133 S. Fourth. "That's not a good way to do this. I think they should just keep it at 21."


The bill was sponsored by two Chicago-area legislators, state Rep. Barbara Wheeler, R-64, and state Rep. Kelly Burke, D-36.


"If it that's the law, I would abide by that," Neiswender said. "The kicker there would be how much have they had."


Neiswender said that although he will follow the new law if it goes into effect, he hopes the bill does not pass.


"I'm up in the air on this," said Rod McClean, who owns and operates several local restaurants, including the Abbey, Kelly's, Tower Pizza and Mexican, and Gem City Pizzeria and Mexican.


At Kelly's, with a slightly older clientele, McClean said he doubts the law would affect the restaurant much if approved.


The bill has been assigned to the Tourism, Hospitality and Craft Industries Committee and has been amended three times since being filed Jan. 20. No vote has been held.

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