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Illinois Bars May Soon be Allowed to Give Free Beers to Fully Vaccinated Customers

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Natalie Frank, Ph.D.
Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

An Illinois bill would allow customers to receive a free alcoholic drink if they show proof they’ve been vaccinated.
Traveljunction/Flickr, CC BY-SA

A new bill proposed in the Illinois House today would allow bars and restaurants to provide one free alcoholic beverage to customers who show proof that they’ve been fully vaccinated. The initiative is designed to encourage those who are reluctant to get the vaccine to do so by rewarding them with a free drink at bars and restaurants. This is one effort in Illinois that health experts and legislators are using to encourage people be get vaccinated when the rate of vaccinations has significantly slowed in the state. Currently only 34.2 percent of those in Illinois are fully vaccinated.

This proposal required an alteration in Illinois law. According to the state law established to ban happy hours, Illinois prohibits providing free drinks as a promotion, or as a prize or reward, as well as advertising any of these types of offers.

The new legislation called the “Shot and a Beer” bill, would allow bar owners to offer free liquor to patrons as a way to promote vaccinations. It also provides an assurance that owners will not be in violation of anything established by the Liquor Control Commission for such offers. Bars who participate would be required to fund it themselves as no state funds would be allotted to reimburse bars for the drinks.

Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-23rd, Riverside) filed the bill in the House this morning.

“Under Illinois law, you’re only allowed to do free beer or free drinks under very specific circumstances,” Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) said. “The bill amends the Liquor Control Act of 1934 to allow a bar to provide a single drink of alcoholic liquor at no charge to a customer as part of a publicly advertised promotion to encourage participation in any COVID-19 vaccination program if the customer provides proof of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Other cities and states have already made such offers to encourage vaccinations. Last week, participants willing to be vaccinated at a pop-up site in Washington, D.C. were offered free beer. In New Jersey, an announcement issued earlier this month stated that the Department of Health would buy residents a pint of beer if they showed proof that they have been vaccinated. Similarly, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) administration is offering to buy beer for vaccinated residents at participating restaurants.

Other businesses and areas have been creating offers to help bring the pandemic to an end by encouraging people to get vaccines. Incentives include 25 percent off purchases made on the NFL website, and $5 coupons for vaccinated customers. In Wayne County, N.Y., on May 4th residents were able to attend a special Star Wars-themed vaccine clinic.

There have also been financial incentives offered for getting vaccinated such as direct cash payments, gift cards and savings bonds in several cities and states. West Virginia offers $100 savings bond to younger people who get vaccinated while $100 bonus is being given to Maryland state employees with a retroactive bonus for those already vaccinated. Harris County, Texas, has dedicated $250,000 to buy gift cards, hold special events and create other incentive programs for residents who get vaccinated. In Detroit residents can earn a $50 prepaid debit card each time they bring in a fellow resident to get vaccinated.

The proposed giveaway in Illinois would last for six months after being enacted, effective as soon as it’s passed. It would apply to both bars and restaurants, according to multiple reports. Proof of vaccination is required so residents are asked to bring their vaccination cards with them in order to get their free drink.