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Latest vaccine incentives could be a shot in the arm for restaurants, bars

The latest round of enticements for the uninoculated include free drinks at a favored eating or drinking spot.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Illinois residents who roll up their sleeves for a COVID-19 vaccine can now be rewarded with a different sort of shot, courtesy of the state’s restaurants and bars.

Gov. Jay Pritzker has just enacted legislation that allows establishments with an alcohol sales permit to reward newly inoculated patrons with a free adult drink. The governor characterized the measure as a double pour, a way of getting customers back on bar stools while simultaneously enticing them to get protected against COVID-19.

And if they’d rather have that drink at home, Pritzker preserved a way for restaurants to oblige: The legislation also extends permission for liquor-licensed establishments to continue selling alcoholic beverages to-go through 2024.

"I'm pleased to sign this legislation into law to offer our hardest-hit businesses another lifeline as we recover from the pandemic," Pritzker said in a statement.

The incentive for restaurants is the opportunity to bolster traffic rather than snagging another drink sale. Participation is voluntary, and the establishment will not be reimbursed by the state for the freebies.

The regulatory loophole opened by Pritzker will remain open through July 20. Roughly midway through that stretch, patrons who opt for the twofer could also find themselves eligible for a free beer chaser.

Anheuser-Busch announced Wednesday that it will provide a free beer, hard seltzer or nonalcoholic beverage to any vaccinated American over age 21 if the nation reaches President Biden’s stated goal of having 70% of the population inoculated against COVID by Independence Day. The offer extends to a free round from a restaurant or a retail establishment. To redeem their brew, a vaccinated consumer would be required to post a picture of themselves enjoying an A-B product.

The offers of a free drink are the latest incentives adopted by state and private-sector parties to encourage the unvaccinated to finally roll up their sleeves. Ohio and New York are both offering free enrollment in special big-dollar lotteries limited to the newly inoculated.

West Virginia is also holding a lottery for residents who opt for the shots, with five hunting rifles and five shotguns offered as prizes.

A number of states have offered free tickets to sporting events as a reward, and New York City has promised free subway and commuter train passes.



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