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Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC) and Underage Stings

Underage drinking has been a public concern for decades. Since as far back as prohibition, lawmakers and lobbyists have attempted to curb the consumption of alcohol by minors. Illinois law states that “the consumption of alcoholic liquor by any person under 21 years of age is forbidden” (235 ILCS 5/6-20). It seems straightforward, but there are several interesting exceptions to the law that do permit the consumption of alcohol by minors in certain circumstances. These exceptions include sampling by culinary students and any consumption related to religious ceremonies. Persons under 21 can also drink alcohol if they are in their own home and under the direct supervision of a parent or legal guardian (235 ILCS 5/6-20).

Under Illinois law, it is “unlawful to sell, serve, deliver or give alcoholic beverages to a person under 21 years of age or to any intoxicated person.” The law further prohibits any person from purchasing an alcoholic beverage and then giving it to an underage individual. This restriction includes anyone who knowingly allows persons under the age of 21to drink alcohol at their private residence (“Laws and Penalties”). Known as the “social host” law, this regulation targets individuals who otherwise would allow underage drinking at youth parties or other social gatherings.

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC) is the state office charged with ensuring that businesses who sell alcoholic beverages are operating in compliance with the law. The office conducts regular undercover investigations to ensure compliance. Working in cooperation with local law enforcement, the ILCC recruits students from local high schools and colleges to assist in undercover compliance checks. Each month, ILCC staff and underage students visit liquor stores, restaurants, and bars in different communities around the state and attempt to persuade the employees to sell them alcohol. 

If a sale occurs during an undercover operation, ILCC agents and local law enforcement issue a citation for the violation on the spot. Violating liquor control laws is considered a Class A Misdemeanor, and carries a maximum fine of $2,500, a jail sentence of up to one year, and possible suspension or revocation of the establishment’s liquor license (“Laws and Penalties”). Repeat offenders may be subject to even harsher penalties, as deemed appropriate by the ILCC and the local courts.

Each month, the ILCC issues an Underage Compliance Report, listing the names and addresses of the businesses cited for liquor law violations. Based on the most recent reports, the majority of Illinois businesses are typically operating in compliance with the law. However, the ILCC’s compliance checks show that some businesses and their employees are still selling to underage individuals.  The January 2019 Underage Compliance Report listed eight businesses cited for liquor control law violations out of the 67 the agency visited that month, or roughly 12% of the businesses checked. The February Underage Compliance Report, on the other hand, includes the names of 26 businesses cited for selling alcohol to underage persons. While this a small percentage of the 147 businesses visited by the ILCC – almost 18% – the number is undoubtedly high enough to keep the ILCC busy.

The ILCC’s monthly compliance reports are an interesting look at the variety of businesses that encounter issues with liquor law violations.  From restaurants to convenience stores, hotels to pharmacies, the random compliance checks demonstrate the need for businesses to routinely train and educate their staff.

The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact an attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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