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Photograph: Andrew Nicodem for Nicodem Creative

Illinois legalizes to-go cocktails—now the city will weigh in

Bars throughout the state will be able to bottle up and sell individual drinks.

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Earlier today, Gov. J.B. Pritzker approved a bill that will allow Illinois bars and restaurants to temporarily sell cocktails to go. Though the state and city have previously permitted licensed establishments to sell full bottles of sealed booze in cocktail kits, the new measure extends to individual, pre-mixed drinks (like negronis or margaritas) with tamper-proof seals, which could provide bar owners with a more sustainable source of revenue in the weeks to come. The law is now in the city's hands to adjust however it sees fit.

"Restaurants and bars are beloved businesses in so many of our communities and also some of the hardest hit from the COVD-19 pandemic," Pritzker said. "This legislation will provide these businesses with a critical tool to bring in additional income until they can safely and fully reopen their doors once more."

The temporary law found legs in Illinois thanks to Cocktails For Hope, a grassroots initiative led by award-winning bartender Julia Momose, the creative director behind Kumiko in the West Loop. Momose assembled a team of organizers in April and formally launched the campaign the same month, urging lawmakers to allow license-holding establishments to be able to sell pre-mixed cocktails to go. Similar laws have already been approved in more than 30 other states, including New York, California and Pennsylvania.

Momose's movement took on new importance last week, when Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that Chicago bars that don't serve food wouldn't be able to reopen at the start of Phase 3, slated to begin on June 3. Momose and her supporters say that allowing bars and restaurants to sell to-go cocktails offers a new financial lifeline to power through the weeks ahead.

Stay tuned for Mayor Lightfoot's decision on to-go cocktails, expected to be raised in the next City Council meeting on June 17.

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