It will now be up to local officials as to whether they want a bar next to a church, school, military facility or hospital, and Gov. Bruce Rauner says it’s a step in the right direction.
A post-Prohibition-era state law required businesses to go to the state legislature for a liquor license if the establishment was within 100 feet of certain places such as schools or churches.
Small Business Advocacy Council President and Founder Elliot Richardson said that would take six months and wasn’t a guarantee.
“This archaic 1934 law is going to be changed, and the result is it is going to spur economic development in the city of Chicago and throughout the state,” Richardson said just before Rauner signed Senate Bill 2436 Thursday in a Chicago café. “Local communities are going to decide what’s best for them.”
State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, said one business had to wait a year to get a bill through the state legislature to get a liquor license. She said it didn’t make sense to require farmers in southern Illinois to sound off on a liquor license request for a Chicago business.
“Sixty-eight pages of the 72-page liquor control act are exemptions,” Feigenholtz said. “Today, we end that.”
She sponsored Senate Bill 2436, which passed with large bipartisan support.
Rauner said he has pushed hard to give control back to local governments since he took office in 2015.
“I actually vetoed two license requests to try and force the change because business was being browbeaten to come to Springfield,” Rauner said. “I said, ‘stop this, no more.’”
Rauner, without naming names, said some state politicians used the 1934 state law to play politics or to get campaign contributions.
The governor said he hopes the new law encourages lawmakers to return local control on other issues.
“If we do the same thing that we do with this for things like consolidating local governments or streamlining procurement or competitive bidding or contracting, get Springfield off the backs of local communities, we’ll bring down our property taxes and we’ll grow even more jobs,” Rauner said.
Although he didn’t mention the idea at Thursday’s bill signing, Rauner has in the past pushed what he called “empowerment zones,” or giving local elected officials the power to manage labor laws such as prevailing wage.