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The Official Publication of the Illinois Restaurant Association
June 2015

What You Need To Know About The Culinary and Hospitality Modernization Act


For two years, the Illinois Restaurant Association has worked with key stakeholders to modernize hospitality laws in Illinois to reflect the needs and current practices of today’s businesses. Due to the leadership of Chief Sponsors Representative Sara Feigenholtz (12th District) and Senator Antonio Muñoz (1st District) and the strong support of the Illinois Restaurant Association, Senate Bill 398 – The Culinary and Hospitality Modernization Act – passed the Illinois General Assembly in late May 2015. The bill will soon be sent to the Governor for his consideration.

“This legislation is really a big step forward for the entire hospitality industry in Illinois,” said Patrick Donelly, General Manager of the Hyatt Regency Chicago and 2015 IRA Chairman. “The Culinary and Hospitality Modernization Act will allow us to better compete with other regional tourism destinations like Florida and California, by being able to offer premium food and drink pairings and packages to our guests.”

The bill updates the Liquor Control Act to modernize Illinois’ robust culinary and hospitality industries by increasing training standards for industry workers and permitting temporary price changes and other marketing tools that will allow the industry to grow and better compete with other regional markets.

“SB 398 is not just about the ability to offer discounted drinks during certain hours. The bill also allows restaurateurs to offer party and special event packages. We look forward to promoting more special events at all five of our locations,” explains Sam Sanchez, Principal at Samco Enterprises. (John Barleycorn, Moe’s Cantina, Old Crow Smokehouse, Chens Chinese & Sushi, and Tunnel.) and IRA Board Corporate Secretary.

This bill defines and permits meal packages and party packages, legalizes temporary price reductions on drinks for up to 4 hours a day and not more than 15 hours a week with additional stipulations, and increases educational standards for all alcohol servers in Illinois, among other beneficial provisions.

“The passage of SB 398 is a significant plus for the hospitality business in Illinois. It is about more than just having discounted drinks for few hours a day. It's a tool that will help attract customers during slow business periods. The bill provides a level playing field for all on-premise operators. It allows for establishments to promote meal and entertainment packages that were previously only available through negotiated hotel and catering contracts. It allows bars and restaurants the ability to grow their private party business. And, most importantly, it will require alcohol server training statewide, which will aid in responsible serving practices. Cheers to all,” says Eric Meyer, Owner of Kam’s Bar in Champaign.

By giving businesses additional tools they need to succeed, SB 398 will help drive more sales taxes into municipal and state coffers. In 2015, Illinois restaurants supported more than 529,000 jobs or 9% of Illinois’ workforce. This year alone, restaurants in Illinois are projected to generate more than $23 billion in sales. In 2014, eating and drinking places in Illinois generated nearly $1.8 billion in state and local sales taxes.

“At the Illinois Restaurant Association, we are always working to improve the business environment in our state,” added Donelly. “Raising the standards for responsible alcohol service statewide, streamlining the process for hotels to maintain a single liquor license, and allowing businesses the flexibility to temporarily reduce prices on drinks are all beneficial for our industry. We worked to pass this bill because it is a balanced approach that will help the restaurant and hospitality industry throughout Illinois attract more customers, create more jobs, and grow our economy.”

Below are a few common questions and answers about the Culinary and Hospitality Modernzation Act, and how the legislation will affect your business after the bill is signed into law.

  • Will I be able to offer “happy hour” specials by temporarily reducing the price of drinks at my establishment?
    • Yes. This legislation permits licensees to offer discounted drinks for up to 4 hours per day, and not more than 15 hours per week.

  • What are the additional rules and restrictions on price reductions?
    • Licensees must adhere to the following stipulations on price reductions on drinks:
      • Notice of the discount of alcohol drinks must be made publicly available 7 days prior to the specified time on the licensee’s premises or on their website.
      • Drinks may not be discounted between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and the licensed premise's closing hour.
      • The price of alcoholic drinks must not be changed during the time that it is discounted.

  • What regulations will not change with the passage of SB 398?
    • This bill updates the Liquor Control Act of 1934 while maintaining some of the bill’s longstanding traditions:
      • You may not sell 2 or more alcohol drinks for the price of one.
      • You may not increase the volume of alcohol in a drink without proportionally increasing the price. (No mega-beers)
      • You may not permit or encourage drinking games or contests.

  • When can I start reducing prices as part of happy hour?
    • SB 398 has passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly, but it does not become law until Governor Rauner signs SB 398. As of right now, the bill has not been transmitted to the Governor. Once the bill is transmitted to the Governor, he will have 60 days to sign SB 398, or it will automatically become law. SB 398 has an immediate effective date, so the provisions of it will go into effect once it becomes law. Since price reductions are required to be posted 7 days prior to the specified time, price reductions will not be allowed for at least 7 days after the bill becomes law.
  • Am I allowed to sell “meal packages” with food and alcohol? What does that entail?
    • Yes. "Meal package" means a food and beverage package, which may or may not include entertainment, where the service of alcoholic liquor is an accompaniment to the food, including, but not limited to: a meal, tour, tasting, or any combination thereof for a fixed price by a retail licensee or any other licensee operating within a sports facility, restaurant, winery, brewery, or distillery.
  • Am I allowed to sell “party packages,” such as wristband deals for a private event? What are the regulations?
    • Yes. "Party package" means a private party, function, or event for a specific social or business occasion, either arranged by invitation or reservation for a defined number of individuals, that is not open to the general public and where attendees are served both food and alcohol for a fixed price in a dedicated event space. In order to sell a party package, a business must:
      • Offer food in the dedicated event space.
      • Limit the party package to no more than 3 hours.
      • Distribute wristbands, lanyards, or shirts that designate party package attendees.
      • Exclude individuals not participating in the party package from the dedicated event space.

  • Which of my employees needs to have responsible alcohol server (BASSET) training? What is the deadline for them to receive the training and certificate?
    • All employees who sell or serve open containers of liquor and anyone whose job description entails the checking of identification for the purchase of open containers of liquor must complete approved training in responsible alcohol service.

      All alcohol servers in counties with a population of 200,000 or more (other than Cook County, which requires training by July 1, 2015) are required to obtain and complete training in basic responsible alcohol service by July 1, 2016 or within 120 days after the alcohol server begins his or her employment, whichever is later.

      All alcohol servers in counties with a population less than 200,000 and more than 30,000 are required to obtain and complete training in basic responsible alcohol service by July 1, 2017 or within 120 days after the alcohol server begins his or her employment, whichever is later.

      All alcohol servers in counties with a population of 30,000 or less are required to obtain and complete training in basic responsible alcohol service by July 1, 2018 or within 120 days after the alcohol server begins his or her employment, whichever is later.
  • Can I sell infusions? What is an infusion?
    • Yes, you may sell infusions. Infused spirits are spirits where ingredients, including but not limited to, fruits, spices, nuts, are added to naturally infuse flavor into the spirits.

  • May I advertise happy hour, meal packages, and party packages? Can I advertise on social media?
    • Yes. Events permitted under SB 398 may be advertised. Yes, you may advertise on social media.

Stay tuned for more information on the Culinary and Hospitality Modernization Act later this summer. Please contact Matt Quinn at (312) 380-4122 or with any questions.

Flavor Profile

Q&A with Carrie Nahabedian, Owner of Naha and Brindille

  • Tell us a little about your history. How did you get where you are today?
    • I grew up in a cooking family. My love for food and cooking came from my grandmother and my mother. But, I’ve been cooking professionally since I was 17 years old. I was fortunate enough to do my training here in Chicago. I got my start at the Ritz Carlton when I was in high school. I started in room service, then worked in the dining room and then moved into the kitchen. I worked there for three and a half glorious years; I loved every minute of it. I was going to school, working full time, plus overtime, and I had to take a bus and two trains to get there.

      Like many other great chefs, I did not attend culinary school. I was lucky to have incredible chef mentors that instilled in me the determination and passion that I apply to my cuisine today. I’ve always had a love for luxury and fine dining in my work history. But, at one point, I was looking for a job that would allow me to get some high volume cooking experience so I went to work for Resorts International, a casino in Atlantic City, where I worked in a kitchen that cooked for 10,000 people a day. I was brought there to upgrade the level of the food. I only stayed there for about a year because I knew that large volume cooking was not my passion.

      After leaving Atlantic City, when I was 20 years old I backpacked through Europe, but not in the typical sense that most young people do. I wasn’t there to see the sights. I was there to literally eat my way through Europe. I visited Egypt, Greece, Italy and France. It was during that trip that I ate at a three-star restaurant for the first time. It was La Pyramide in Vienne in France. At that time, for me, it represented the modern day example of greatness. Parts of that meal still stick with me everyday.

      I returned to Chicago from Europe with a renewed sense of what it meant to be in the culinary world. I was inspired by the European way of life and the way in which food plays such a huge role in everyday life.

      I interviewed with Chef Jean Banchet at Le Francais. He was so impressed that I had been to La Pyramide that he hired me and I was the first female to cook in that kitchen. Even after I left the restaurant, I had a lifelong friendship with Chef Banchet. I went on to work at a number of other Illinois-based restaurants, including Sinclair’s in Lake Forest, which was my first job as sous chef. There, I worked with and became friends with Chef Charlie Trotter. He had amazing intellectual passion. I was there for about a year and a half, and then I wanted to go back to cooking French cuisine. I went to work for Jovan Trboyevic at Le Perroquet. I loved my time there as a sous chef in the kitchen with Jovan. We gained international recognition; we were cooking creative food with no boundaries.

      Later, I became the chef de cuisine at La Tour at the Park Hyatt in Chicago for a little over three years. I really enjoyed that because I was able to implement and create menus that went along with my style and vision. While I was at La Tour, the Four Seasons Chicago was under construction. Their food and beverage team approached me, and they asked me to come over and work in the kitchen there. That was in 1989, I started out as a sous chef and then moved on to become the executive chef, which was the first time in my career that I worked at that level. That was a defining moment in my career, and I was just 32 years old! The most important thing I learned there was the importance of how you treat the product, the guests, and your coworkers – that stays with me today.

      I then made a major life change and moved on to the Biltmore Four Seasons in Santa Barbara, California. I told my family and friends that I was just going to be gone for a little while. I stayed in California for almost 10 years. The Biltmore Four Seasons has a huge kitchen, which services five restaurants. It was a massive outlet and I loved it. From there I moved North a bit and went to the Four Seasons Beverly Hills to work as the executive chef. California is a beautiful place - the bounty of fresh produce, the healthy lifestyle, all of it. I really didn’t want to leave but it was time for me to get back to Chicago. I returned for a short visit in early 2000. I remember when Gordon’s closed, Charlie Trotter took me aside and suggested I get the location of Gordon’s and open my own restaurant. So I told Michael (my cousin and business partner) that’s what I wanted, and he said “Ok, I will work on it.” I got back on the plane to California and I made a commitment to myself that that was going to be an unbelievable year, my last year at Four Seasons Beverly Hills.

      My cousin Tom was the architect for Naha, and he just won a James Beard Award this year for outstanding restaurant design. I think we are the only family with multiple James Beard Awards! And, can you believe that Naha has been in the same location for 15 years?!

      Three years ago, Michael and I decided to jump back into the deep end and opened Brindille. It’s a little jewel box of a space and it represents how I came up in my career. My whole career is based on my network of individuals that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. They’ve all become friends and for that I am blessed.

  • To what do you attribute your success? Do you have any advice for aspiring restaurateurs?
    • My advice would be to do your research, know what you want to do, make sure it’s something that you believe in, and make sure you’re committed for the long haul. You’re putting everything on the line; make sure you have money and good investors. Most importantly, stay true to what you believe in.
  • What is your biggest challenge?
    • What hasn’t been my biggest challenge is being a woman. Everyone expects me to say that. But I was treated early on by my contemporaries (men) with respect. Really, my biggest challenge was learning about making money and understanding finances. But, I had great learning experiences and was fortunate enough to work with the directors of finance on the corporate level at Four Seasons. The biggest challenge throughout my career has been getting people to understand that, as I woman, I knew what I was talking about! Also, I’ve learned along the way that there is more to cooking and running a restaurant than just cooking.
  • In addition to winning a James Beard Award, what has been your biggest reward in working in the industry?
    • I’m lucky to have two successful restaurants in Chicago and to have longevity in the industry.
  • What is currently your favorite culinary trend?
    • My favorite culinary flavor of the moment is the rise of South American cuisine.
  • What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
    • Fennel

  • If you could have dinner with three people, dead or alive, who would you invite and where would you go?
    • Fernand Point, Rita Hayworth, and my cousin Michael. We would go to Paris and dine at Ledoyen. Its been there since the 1700s.

  • What do you see as being the most valuable resources/services that the IRA provides you?
    • It’s a resource for restaurateurs of all calibers to help us succeed in this business. If they can’t help you directly, they have a resource that they can refer you to. They never say "No," and they will do whatever it takes to get you the information that you are searching for. Our membership provides amazing networking opportunities and provides all of the resources you need to succeed. Most importantly, I appreciate the personal relationships that everyone at the IRA has with all of the member restaurants. They make an effort to get to know each restaurant by patronizing and supporting each location.

BASSET Training for Cook County Alcohol Servers


Beginning July 1, 2015, a new Beverage Alcohol Sellers/Servers Education & Training (BASSET) law will take effect for Cook County. This law will require all on premise alcohol servers and bouncers in Cook County to complete an approved BASSET training program beginning July 1, 2015, within 120 days of employment, and every 3 years thereafter.

In order to ensure that operators have ample time to come into compliance without penalty, enforcement of the law will be limited to education and notification through December 2015, and enforcement will not begin until January 1, 2016.

The ServSafe Alcohol Online Course and Primary Exam is accepted by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. This BASSET approved online course meets all the requirements established by Illinois law. By providing extensive knowledge and best-in-class resources, ServSafe Alcohol helps servers earn their BASSET Certification and put knowledge into action when it matters most. Get your Illinois BASSET Certification now!

For a limited time, the ServSafe Alcohol Online Course and Primary Exam is only $20.40. Receive the 32% discount with coupon code: BASSET

For more information on BASSET Training and requirements, contact IRA Director of Education Mary Wilkie at (312) 380-4121 or email

A La Carte

Don't Miss It! 2015 IRA Golf Classic


Join us on Wednesday, August 5, 2015 at St. Andrews Golf & Country Club in West Chicago for the Annual IRA Golf Classic.

Pull on your prized plaids and polos and enjoy a day filled with 18 holes of golf, networking, and a festive assortment of food and beverages, as well as specially selected raffle prizes and silent auction items. Golf carts will be provided.

Sponsorship opportunities are also available. Click here to learn more. If you have questions regarding sponsorships, please contact Katerina Kiagias at (312) 929-0104 or

Donations for the silent auction are needed as well! Click here to access the donation form. If you have questions about donations, please contact Ashley Brandon at (312) 380-4133 or



Flat Top Grill


To celebrate their 20th anniversary, Flat Top Grill plans to party – all year long. The pioneers of the fresh to order, DIY grill concept will continue to appeal to their customer’s tastes by introducing new menu items, redesigning their restaurants, and launching a loyalty program that will feature special promotions and discounts to regular patrons (aka “Flat Toppers”).

On September 19, 1995, the first Flat Top Grill opened on the north side of Chicago in the Old Town neighborhood on North Avenue. Though the location is no longer active, the Flat Top spirit is alive and thriving. Modeled after the fresh farmers markets of Asia, it remains the company’s mission to offer fully customizable, fresh fare, cooked to each customer’s preference, hence their motto: “They grow it, you pick it, we cook it.” According to CEO Michael Wozniak, “We wanted to replicate the experience of walking through a market full of fresh, local farmers’ goods and picking what you want. At the end of the market, there is a large flat top grill where someone cooks the food according to each person’s individual taste.”

To keep things fresh, they have introduced some new menu items to accompany the traditional noodle and rice bowls, soups, and lettuce wraps. The FTG Mighty Burrito (1.5 lbs. of make-it-yourself freshness) and Roti Tacos (on their signature Roti Bread) are now available in all locations and they are preparing to roll out salads and stuffed sandwiches throughout the year.

As they prepare for the next 20 years, Flat Top Grill’s biggest goal is not additional site selections but the building of their team. “We are looking for people that can deliver our genuine Flat Top Grill experience...those who have a passionate, positive spirit and a real love for people and food,” said Wozniak.

The past and future success of Flat Top Grill continues to revolve around trust – with their guests, teammates, and vendors. Their new loyalty program, Flat Top Grill Rewards, was designed using information from thousands of surveys provided by their regular guests. The program will provide instant rewards for joining, valuable offers and a special feature called “Your R.O.I” (Random Offers and Info) that will offer unique promotions.

Visit Flat Top Grill to check out the new menu items and help them celebrate 20 years of success. To find the location nearest you, please visit

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