Consumers should have greater purchasing options from bars and restaurants soon. The law allowing (link to HB 3610) Illinois’s on-premise retailers to fill growlers and crowlers looks certain for passage.

We reported on the substance of a different version of this bill at the beginning of April. Legislators introduced a new version augmenting the previous terms but still allowing bars, restaurants, and other on-premise retailers to fill and sell large containers to-go. It passed through the Illinois House and now it has made it through committee and should pass a full Senate vote if called for one, shortly.

So what does this new law allowing bars and restaurants to sell growlers and crowlers to go in Illinois say?

The bill amends the existing sanitation section of the Illinois Liquor Control Act and:

  • Prohibits manufacturers and distributors from freely giving coil cleaning services installation services, dispensing accessories, glycol systems, pumps and other items to retailers.
  • Allows manufacturers and brewpubs to transfer beer they make on their premises or sell in their tap-rooms to growlers or crowlers and to sell those growlers and crowlers to consumers for off-premises consumption. (NOTE: the bill does not address whether a manufacturer needs a local on-premise liquor license to perform this activity.)
  • Exempts those brewers that comply with subsection (e) of Section 6-4 (taprooms) and brewpubs from complying with subsection (b) of the new law. (NOTE: this is really odd, as subsection (b) (as detailed below) doesn’t just deal with sanitation (which is already the subject of an administrative code provision) – it also deals with container size, type, labeling and sealing – so the effect is saying that brewers and brewpubs aren’t bound to the container size, type, and labeling provisions of the new law.)

The bill also sets standards for growlers and crowlers sold by bars and restaurants in Illinois such as:

  • The container must be a “reusable” rigid container holding “up to” 128 ounces of beer, and is designed to be sealed on the premises by the licensee for off-premise consumption. (NOTE: a crowler isn’t “reusable” – so this vestige from the prior bill that didn’t take crowlers into account should have been augmented, but it wasn’t.)
  • An employee of the retailer must transfer the beer to the growler/crowler at the time of sale. (NOTE: No pre-filled growlers or crowlers.)
  • Growler or crowler bears a twist-type closure, cork, stopper, or plug and includes a one-time use tamper-proof seal. (NOTE: Again, which one of those is a crowler?)
  • The growler or crowler is labeled or tagged with the beer’s brand name, brewer or bottler name,  the “type,” net contents, name and address of the business that cleaned, sanitized, labeled and filled or refilled and the date it was filled or refilled.
  • The growler or crowler is purged with carbon-dioxide prior to sealing the container. (NOTE: absolutely no statement about whether this occurs before or after filling.)
  • The  on-premises retailer licensee complies with the sanitation requirements under subsections (a) through (c) of 11 Ill. Adm. Code 100.160 for the equipment used to dispense the beer.
  • The bar or restaurant follows one of the three following methods for cleaning and sanitizing the growler or crowler before filing or refilling it:
    • (A) By manual washing in a 3-compartment sink. – temperature, detergent rules apply – other standards as well, like test kits and sanitizer are detailed.
    • (B) By using a mechanical washing and sanitizing machine.
    • (C) By transferring beer to a growler or crowler with a tube. – bottom to top filling required, sanitizer are detailed.

Growlers and crowlers complying with parts of the section are not deemed unsealed containers under the vehicle code.

A welcome change to Illinois’s purchasing options.