Liquor licenses in the City of Chicago are some of the most complex and restrictive in Illinois. To obtain a liquor license a food establishment must consider, among other things, neighborhood sentiment (notification to all registered voters within 250 feet of the establishment), the location of schools, churches, hospitals, day-care centers, libraries etcetera, dry precincts with moratoriums on liquor sales as well as inspections, dram shop insurance and the overall licensing costs. Many restaurants turn to BYOB, or bring your own bottle, to avoid some of the time-consuming regulations.

But the laws surrounding BYOB policies are confusing for both restaurant owners and patrons. Here’s a quick reference guide from The City of Chicago.

  • Restaurants cannot legally charge a fee for the allowing alcohol consumption on their property if they allow you to bring your own without having a liquor license. This includes corkage or glass fees. They can only charge this fee if they have a liquor license and have chosen not to serve liquor themselves or allow patrons to bring them own.
  • If a restaurant has a BYOB policy their employees cannot legally store, serve, pour, or otherwise handle your beer or wine. Patrons must handle it themselves.
  • If you operate a restaurant that allows patrons to bring their own bottle, you should have a liquor liability insurance policy as you can be held criminally negligent should one of your patrons over serve themselves.

In 2007, Illinois State law SB946 (Public Act 094-1047) was passed allowing restaurant patrons to remove one unsealed/ partially consumed bottle of wine from the premises provided they had purchased a meal and consumed some of that wine on the premises. If the wine was purchased at the restaurant, the restaurant is responsible for placing the opened bottle in a tamper proof bag along with a dated receipt. Wine resealed in this manner is not considered to be an unsealed open container according to the Illinois Vehicle Code. This law only applies to wine and does not include beer or hard liquor.

If you bring your own bottle you can place the open container in a locked trunk that is not accessible from the car compartment by the driver or passengers. This means if you put an opened bottle in the back of your SUV you are violating the law. If you drive a vehicle that does not have a separate locked trunk and do not want to risk a potential arrest for driving while intoxicated (if you finish the bottle) or violating the open container law (if you take the half consumed bottle with you), offer it the next table instead. Spread the cheer.