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Lawmaker wants residents to get their shot — then get a beer

Taverns across the state would be able to reward patrons who can prove they got a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine with a free beer — or other alcoholic beverage — under a bill introduced by a suburban state legislator.

A restaurant owner tests the beer pump in his restaurant in Paris last week.
A restaurant owner tests the beer pump in his restaurant in Paris last week, ahead of the reopening of restaurant and cafe terraces scheduled for May 19.
Bertrand Guay/AFP via Getty Images

“A shot and a beer” could get a whole new meaning in Illinois bars.

Taverns across the state would be able to reward patrons who can prove they got a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine with a free beer — or other alcoholic beverage — under a bill introduced by a suburban state legislator.

But don’t look for “COVID-19 Happy Hours.”

State Rep. Mike Zalewski’s bill would limit the promotions to one free alcoholic beverage with proof of inoculation to “incentivize vaccinations at this point.”

“It feels like we’ve reached this point where we’ve reached those who are vaccine hesitant — this is just one effort to try to do that,” Zalewski said. “This is just one effort to try to do that. It feels like it may be effective, based on what we’ve seen from other states.”

The Riverside Democrat said the bill is “light hearted” but he does think it could have a positive impact.

State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, shown during debate on the House floor at the Bank of Springfield Center in January.
State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, shown during debate on the House floor at the Bank of Springfield Center in January.
Blueroomstream.com

The bill “provides that a retail licensee may provide a single drink of alcoholic liquor at no charge to a customer as part of a publicly advertised promotion to encourage participation in any COVID-19 vaccination program if the customer provides proof of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Social media gave Zalewski the idea. New Jersey was cited as a good example, though there are other states that have enacted a “shot and a beer” policy, Zalewski said.

George Ripley, 72, of Washington, holds up his free beer after receiving the J & J COVID-19 vaccine shot earlier this month at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
George Ripley, 72, of Washington, holds up his free beer after receiving the J & J COVID-19 vaccine shot last week at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP file

The bar or tavern patrons go to will likely be responsible for enforcing how they determine vaccination status, but Zalewski said the cards state residents received showing they’d been given doses of the vaccine might be enough to qualify for a free drink.

The state legislator said he hasn’t heard from opponents yet on the legislation but said he’s open to discussion.

He’s now working on finding the right bill, or “vehicle,” to add it to, Zalewski said. He’s hopeful the General Assembly will pass the bill this session and said it would “be nice to have it for the summer.”