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Illinois set to restore Chicago happy hours

The Illinois legislature is poised to legalize happy-hour drink discounts in Chicago again, though some restaurant operators may be surprised the intended traffic boosters were ever outlawed.

The Culinary and Hospitality Modernization Act was passed last week by the House and is widely expected to sail through the Senate within two weeks. The measure would overturn a 1989 law that prohibits alcohol-serving establishments from changing the prices of drinks during the day.

It would not go as far, however, as permitting pay-one-price deals, where patrons in essence pay an admission price for an open bar.

A number of establishments, however, are already discounting alcoholic beverages at times because they are apparently unaware of the prohibition. The error has drawn significant fines for some. Establishments were socked with $139,000 in penalties during 2014, according to a report late last year by news website DNAInfo.com.

The law overturning the happy-hour ban is supported in part because of the additional sales-tax revenue it would generate for a state in dire financial straits.

It answers critics who fear a danger from over-drinking with a requirement that alcohol servers be required to take server-responsibility training.

The measure is supported by the Illinois Restaurant Association.

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