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The Official Publication of the Illinois Restaurant Association
March 2015

Educating the Bar Industry
New Certification Requirements for Cook County Alcohol Servers


On July 1, 2015 new certification requirements for Cook County alcohol servers will go into effect, requiring all alcohol servers in Cook County to obtain B.A.S.S.E.T. certification. This is important legislation that will improve industry standards and we want to make sure you have all the information you need to prepare. We also talked with three prominent Chicago restaurant and bar operators and IRA members to get their takeaways – Kevin Vaughan of Vaughan Hospitality Group (Emerald Loop Bar & Grill, Mystic Celt and others), Carmen Rossi of Hubbard Inn, and Sam Sanchez of Samco Enterprises (John Barleycorn, Moe’s Cantina and others).

The acronym B.A.S.S.E.T. stands for “Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Educational Training”. Approved B.A.S.S.E.T. programs provide the knowledge and techniques critical to responsible alcohol service, which reduces the incidence of DUIs, alcohol related fatalities, underage drinking, and sales to minors. The programs also educate business owners and staff on dram shop insurance, state and local laws pertaining to the sale of alcohol, and how to create safer communities and business establishments where alcohol is served.

“Ultimately, this certification is about education and making sure your staff understands the effects of alcohol on the body. We are a service industry, but that doesn’t mean we have to over serve our guests,” Sanchez says.

As the B.A.S.S.E.T. certificate is an employee-owned credential, employers are not required to pay for an employee’s time or expense to take the training. The certificate is valid for three years and transferrable between employers, which makes employees who have the B.A.S.S.E.T. certificate more marketable to potential employers, helping to secure jobs now and in the future.

“It is great that the legislation puts responsibility for getting the certification on the servers and that the certification is transferrable. I think that mandating the training sends a strong message to servers that responsible service of alcohol is a skill and that it must be taken seriously,” Vaughan says.

This new bill amends the Liquor Control Act of 1934 and provides for a consistent, county-wide standard for the education and training.

“This legislation is a quality example showcasing the importance of balancing the relationship between government and private business,” says Rossi. The bill sets minimum program requirements for training providers that are based on job task analysis and industry best practices in instructional design and exam development. The result is a program that clearly identifies the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to responsibly serve alcoholic beverages. “This improves our ability to be responsible servers of alcohol and will help our employees make good, informed decisions,” explains Vaughan.

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.

All of the standards set forth ultimately promote responsible alcohol service that protects both business owners and consumers. “By being proactive business owners when it comes to education, safety, and health - the hospitality industry can only win,” advocates Rossi.

Flavor Profile

Q&A with Ivan Matsunaga, Executive Vice President of Connie's Pizza

  • Tell us a little about your history. How did you get where you are today?
    • While attending Cornell University as a pre-law, government and economics dual major, I decided that I could not spend my career working with lawyers every day as originally planned. I transferred to their Hotel School, graduated, and took a job with my fraternity brother’s dad, the founder of Connie’s Pizza. 28 years later, I’m still proud to be working with the Stolfe family.
  • To what do you attribute your success? Do you have any advice for aspiring restaurateurs?
    • Working hard and smart, consistently, are the cornerstones of my success. Combined with a passion for the business and our concept, I continue to look forward to running the business every day and hope to be with Connie’s for another 28 years. Aspiring restaurateurs need to make sure they have lots of passion and very strong work ethic, and definitely be realistic about the challenges in our business. Always remember that most restaurants fail at some point!
  • What is your biggest challenge?
    • The biggest challenge has been the continued growth in the complexity of the business. The regulatory environment is extremely burdensome and the infusion of private equity has altered the landscape for operators.
  • What is your biggest reward in working in the industry?
    • Helping people grow and develop into their potential, which allows them the opportunity to better their life. That is the most rewarding feeling.
  • What are you excited for this year?
    • Chicago is hosting the NFL Draft and the James Beard Awards, as well as the Microsoft conference, and continues to raise its stature as a world-class city.
  • Any big events or opportunities for growth?
    • Our wood fired pizzas are garnering a lot of buzz and interest, so we are seeing how they can play a larger role relative to our 51-year old traditional Connie’s pizzas.
  • What is your favorite menu item and/or what would your last meal be?
    • A stuffed spinach and mushroom Connie’s pizza!
  • How are you involved with the IRA?
    • I’m a past chairman of the IRA and current chair of the Education Committee. I’m also on the Board of Directors for the NRA. And also I’m a big fan of Sam Toia.
  • What do you see as being the most valuable resources/service that the IRA provides you?
    • Advocacy. As our industry raises its profile, we have become a large target for government and other significant bodies.



Bringing Culinary and Hospitality Laws into the 21st Century


The restaurant industry in Illinois is one of our state’s main economic engines, generating more than $23 billion into Illinois' economy. It is responsible for over 529,000 jobs statewide. In many instances, the culinary and hospitality industry is operating under archaic and restrictive laws that do not reflect the needs and current practices of today’s businesses.

One of the central issues discussed during the IRA’s Springfield Lobby Day on March 11 was the Culinary and Hospitality Modernization Act. This legislation, with an amendment pending, seeks to help Illinois compete with global tourism destinations like Florida and California by enacting policies that will help grow our dynamic culinary and hospitality industry. The bill is sponsored by pragmatic leaders on both sides of the aisle in Springfield – Representatives Sara Feigenholtz and Ron Sandack.

The bill addresses the following issues:

  • Defines and permits “meal and entertainment” packages as a primary culinary experience.
  • Removes punitive prohibitions around advertising and social media
  • Eliminates out of date, burdensome regulations that artificially inhibit growth and job creation.
  • Maintains prohibition on 2 for 1 drink specials.
  • Reiterates that .08 and responsible alcohol server laws of Illinois apply to this legislation.

We look forward to continue working with all stakeholders and supporters of this legislation, including the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois, and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild.

Next, the IRA will be attending the NRA Public Affairs Conference in Washington D.C. from April 14-15. Click here to register today. Contact Matt Quinn at 312-320-3446 or with any questions.

A La Carte

Gordon Food Service: We’re Driven to Delivering the Best


The right products and services can make the difference between meeting expectations or falling short, and that’s why we’re passionate about precision. We deliver the excellence and reliability you’re looking for, so you can focus on what matters the most: your business and your customers.

Learn more about Gordon Food Service at



The Fifty/50 Celebrates Seventh Anniversary


The Fifty/50 celebrates its seventh anniversary on Thursday, March 19 at 6:00 p.m. Special food and drink offers will be available throughout the day including:

  • $3 Jameson shots (available all day)
  • All craft drafts will be $5 (available all day)
  • All specialty burgers and build your-your-own burgers will be only $7 (during the anniversary party)
  • Free birthday cake during the anniversary party from West Town Bakery

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