Free booze with your COVID-19 vaccine? It soon could be possible in Illinois.
Legislation filed by Riverside Democratic state Rep. Michael Zalewski would allow Illinois bars to offer free drinks to people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine as long as it's part of a "publicly advertised promotion to encourage participation in the COVID-19 vaccination program."
Zalewski introduced the legislation, HB4078, on Tuesday as an amendment to the Illinois Liquor Control Act of 1934. If passed, the legislation would take effect immediately and would be in place for six months.
"Kudos to the @chicagobars for the idea. All good bills originate from an undisclosed location," Zalewski said on Twitter, referring to a Chicago bar Twitter game. Zalewski said he drew inspiration for the legislation from social media and a similar bill in New Jersey.
Zalewski's bill coincides with Illinois' ongoing effort to vaccinate as many people as possible, as the state reached a milestone of 10 million people vaccinated Tuesday.
"Shots in arms, that's the goal," Zalewski said. "We have reached this place where we need to overcome a hump of vaccine-hesitant people, and this is just one way to do that.
"Call me crazy, but if people can have an opportunity to belly up to the bar and have a beer, that may just be one more thing they consider when trying to decide to get the vaccination."
The legislation would be of no cost to the state and would be entirely voluntary for bars and restaurants -- that is, if they are OK with footing the bill for the free drinks.
The bill has not received a hearing date yet, but Zalewski is confident it can pass before the May 31 legislation deadline.
Pat Doerr, the managing director of the hospitality business association of Chicago, said he thought the legislation would be a good way to "energize" the vaccination effort among young adults in Illinois. He thought there would be enough bars and restaurants involved to "move the needle," but that many others would not sign on.
"It's been a long year with bartenders and servers involuntarily dragged into the culture wars over masks and vaccinations and restrictions," Doerr said. "I am beyond sympathetic to any bar, restaurant or venue that does not want to get involved with that and chooses not to do this."