Top 5 Ways to Lose Your Liquor License in Illinois

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It is not easy to get a liquor license in Illinois especially if you are in a city like Chicago. Bars and restaurants rely on the revenue generated from serving alcoholic beverages so that license is vital. That revenue can quickly disappear, along with your liquor license, if you or your staff are caught making even minor mistakes in the course of doing business. Fortunately, many of the most common mistakes that business owners and their staff make are also among the easiest to correct with the right amount of training and oversight. By knowing the top five reasons you could lose your liquor license in Illinois, you can avoid them and better ensure your continued success.

Reason #1: Serving Alcohol to Minors

It probably comes as no surprise that the number one reason bars and restaurants lose their liquor license is because they are caught serving alcohol to underage customers. Failing to properly ID every customer or train your staff on how to spot a fake ID can have serious implications for your business. Make sure you and your staff know the signs and what to do if you suspect something. Bartenders, door supervisors, servers, and others should all be given regular and comprehensive training and oversight to keep things legal and running smoothly.

Reason #2: Allowing Problematic Patron Conduct

Staff should all be trained how to handle patrons who show up late or who are unwilling to leave. Serving customers after hours or letting them stay on the premises to sober up before driving home can easily result in your liquor license being suspended. Additionally, tolerating patrons who routinely engage in disorderly conduct, such as public drunkenness, gambling, and violence can cause the State and City to investigate your establishment. Training staff how to de-escalate violent situations – and when to call the police – is an essential part of keeping your liquor license in good standing.

Reason #3: Overserving

In Illinois, bartenders have a responsibility not to serve alcoholic drinks to customers who are already drunk. If your staff continues to serve drinks to someone who is intoxicated, and that patron injures another customer or gets into an accident after leaving your bar, you could not only lose your liquor license; you could also get sued for damages as well. Providing thorough employee training to help them identify drunk patrons and supporting their decision to refuse to serve drinks to anyone they suspect is inebriated are the keys to avoiding the problems caused by overserving drinks.

Reason #4: Staff Consumption of Alcohol

With so many alcoholic drinks on the premises, your staff may be tempted to indulge in one or two drinks of their own. Especially if your patrons are trying to entice your bartender or server to share a drink with them, it can be hard for an untrained staff member to know how to respond. Your staff should know the procedures for such situations, how to professionally decline such offers, and when to seek help.

Reason #5: Other Staff Issues

As a business owner, your hiring practices will have a significant impact on whether you keep your liquor license or not. Staff should attend all required training as well as receive regular updates on any changes in the law. Staff who will be serving alcohol must also be of legal age and be able to demonstrate that they know and will follow not only state and city laws, but establishment rules as well.

Jordan Matyas

Jordan Matyas

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Jordan Matyas is a lawyer, lobbyist, and Founder of 1818 Legal, an Illinois professional licensing defense law firm he created in 2014. With more than 18 years of experience practicing law, he represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, including professional license defense, administrative law, land use and zoning, and state, local, and municipal law.

Jordan received his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois — Chicago School of Law and is a member of the Illinois Bar Association.