Hospitality Business Association of Chicago provides invaluable information for Chicago Liquor and Restaurant licensees regarding COVID-19 opening and City inspections

Full disclosure, we’re a sponsor of the Hospitality Business Association of Chicago and respect and admire their tireless and timely work on behalf of Chicago liquor licensees, Chicago restaurants, and in providing Chicago liquor law related information. 

During the COVID-19 topsy-turvy the HBAC has been updating and regularly reporting on Chicago liquor licensee and Chicago restaurant licensee issues relevant to re-opening, liquor license and retail food license enforcement, inspections, required documentation, and signage. 

As part of that work, they’ve been sending out a regularly updated letter regarding those issues. I’ve gotten permission to share it with you as it is an important resource. If you find it of value, please consider joining the HBAC.

Dear HBAC Friends and Partners,

The Hospitality Association has carefully reviewed over 500 recent City of Chicago Covid-19 reopening complaint and canvass inspection reports. While compliance was overwhelmingly very good a meaningful number of places were ticketed over permit paperwork, or more often, a failure to have proof of liquor liability insurance (LLI) available. The unavailable LLI citations have long been an issue, one that has only increased with expanded inspections of liquor licensees during Covid-19 reopening.

Here is a link to the City of Chicago sample of a proper LLI certificate. Please note most of the violations appear to be for staff or the owner unable to even find the current certificate, and not for minor errors in format. Presenting an out of date / expired LLI certificate is also an ongoing issue so please ensure your current certificate is up to date. An “up to date” LLI certificate is when the “Policy Expiration Date” on the LLI is a date in the future.

Below is a list of other license, permit, and paperwork required by, and routinely checked during a City of Chicago BACP or CPD liquor licensed premises inspection:

1. City of Chicago liquor license (must be posted)

2. All other City of Chicago license – Retail Food, PPA, Tobacco etc… (posted)

3. Current State of Illinois liquor license (posted)

4. Illinois Business Tax Certificate (posted – certificate sample info here)

5. City of Chicago occupancy capacity card(s) (posted)

6. State of Illinois 2020 Proof of Age sign (posted) 

7. State of Illinois Pregnancy Warning Sign (posted)

8. Tavern licensees – City 4-60-100(d) “Please Leave Quietly” sign (posted).

9. Certificates of liquor liability insurance showing current coverage (This must be available. Posting is not required. But just post it anyway or tape it to the back of your posted City license and save the hassle of finding it during inspection.)

10. Proof of State of Illinois Responsible Server certifications for service & security staff (available)

11. Proof of Illinois Food Handler Certification for service staff and kitchen staff (available).

11a. Food Sanitation Certificate for a currently on duty Kitchen Manager(s) (posted. May be posted in kitchen).

12. City approved “Plan of Operation” for late hour licensees and other liquor licensees who entered into such a plan as part of the licensing process (Posted) if applicable. Not sure if you are subject to a current Plan of Operation? Email HBAC for help verifying whether you are. Please note every Late Hour licensee is automatically required to have a Plan of Operation / Exterior Security Plan.

13. Current Amusement Tax stamps on jukeboxes, pool tables, photo booths, and other amusement devices (posted on the machines).


Chicago liquor licensees MUST have the current City of Chicago liquor sales curfew sign publcily posted in the establishment posted.

In addition the State of Illinois has made available over two dozen Safe Reopening best practices signs in PDF format for retail businesses, which you can download from HBAC here. HBAC recommends liquor licensees simply rely on State issued customer education signs rather than design their own. Your staff will thank you when some customer aka “that customer” takes issue with a public health sign and your staff can simply tell them the State put the sign design out, recommended you post it, and the customer can take it up with them.

Other required documents for State inspections:

The State Liquor Control Act in most cases requires licensees to have beer, wine, and liquor invoices for the past 90 days readily available upon Commission agent request.

Other required signs and disclosures:

There are several additional employee notice and Health Code documents required in every liquor licensed business as well, however these are generally not items BACP or CPD are checking during Covid-19 Reopening inspections. HBAC will send an additional email on these additional documents later this week to help you be entirely prepared for a future Health Dept inspection.

“Crash bag” a best practices for easier license inspections:

The Hospitality Business Association of Chicago STRONGLY recommends licensees prepare a “Crash Bag” with copies of the above documents #1-5 and #9. Ensure all employees know where this document bag is kept in case of inspection. Simply having those documents readily available – without needing to take originals off a wall or searching for them in an office – greatly speeds up spot inspections and CPD paperwork if you need to report potential illegal activity in or near your licensed premises or conduct a Covid-19 Safe Operation compliance check on your business.

A note on “expired” City or State licenses.

Both the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois have automatically extended liquor licenses that have expired since March 15th, 2020. The expiring City of Chicago licenses are extended, at a minimum until October 30th, 2020. The expiring State of Illinois liquor licenses are extended until December 31st, 2020. Field inspectors and CPD officers should be aware of these extensions.

Be aware, even if your state or local licenses are expired since March 15th, 2020 you should still have them posted publicly as required by law.

HBAC will provide more information on expired license renewal for both City and State later this summer to help small businesses prepare for those expenses coming due.

ICYMI: HBAC makes seven weeks of City Covid-19 inspection reports available.

After some Freedom of Information Act nagging the Hospitality Business Association of Chicago was able to obtain the entire list of businesses inspected by BACP Chicago from June 1st to July 19th and it reflects relatively few (roughly 6%) inspections resulted in serious ticketing or other major enforcement. Specifically:

14 CDFORTHWITH (Severe – Business issued immediate cease & desist order)

67 DOAH (Business given a ticket – many of these are for unavailable insurance certs)

226 IN COMPLIANCE (great job)

43 NO ACTION TAKEN (minor issues discovered, verbal guidance given)

113 NO ENTRY (nobody home)

83 NOTICE CORCT (written warning to fix something, no fine)

18 NOTICE VOLTN (business given a ticket – not major violation)

30 NPWUV (business given a ticket for a public way permit violation)



The relatively few major citations issued are a testament to the hardwork the hospitality industry and your staffs have put into being safe, socially distanced Phase IV operations and HBAC looks forward to telling this story in the media and on social media later this week. In the meantime if you wish to see who has been inspected to date for Covid-19 Safe Operations by BACP we’ve made the responsive data available:

Click here to view the inspection data on a spreadsheet.

Click here to view the inspection data on a Google map.

Assuming nothing else hits the Chicago hospitality industry fan, an additional newsletter will go out tomorrow to dues paying members about an online webinar next Tuesday to discuss next steps on preserving the industry’s small businesses during the incredibly challenging times today and almost certainly ahead.


Pat Doerr

Managing Director

Ashley Brandt

Hi there! I’m happy you’re here. My name is Ashley Brandt and I’m an attorney in Chicago representing clients in the Food and Beverage, Advertising, Media, and Real Estate industries. A while back I kept getting calls and questions from industry professionals and attorneys looking for advice and information on a fun and unique area of law that I’m lucky enough to practice in. These calls represented a serious lack of, and need for, some answers, news, and information on the legal aspects of marketing and media. I've got this deep seeded belief that information should be readily available and that the greatest benefit from the information age is open access to knowledge... so ... this blog seemed like the best way to accomplish that. I enjoy being an attorney and it’s given me some amazing opportunities, wonderful experiences, and an appreciation and love for this work. I live in Chicago and work at an exceptional law firm, Goldstein & McClintock, with some truly brilliant people. Feel free to contact me at any time with any issues, comments, concerns… frankly, after reading this far, I hope you take the time to at least let me know what you think about the blog and how I can make it a better resource.

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