McHenry County waives liquor license renewal fees in effort to help bars, restaurants hit by COVID-19 restrictions

Bars and restaurants in unincorporated McHenry County still will be able to serve food and alcohol outdoors after the McHenry County Board on Tuesday extended its moratorium on the enforcement of some of its ordinances.

County Board Chairman Mike Buehler, who serves as the county’s liquor commissioner, decided to waive renewal fees for businesses with Class A liquor licenses if they meet certain conditions.

The moves were made to help bars and restaurants struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, and the mitigations imposed by the state to slow its spread, are devastating restaurant and dining establishments,” Buehler, R-Crystal Lake, said in the release. “While we are imploring people to shop and dine locally to help our small-business community, McHenry County owes it to them to remove whatever burdens it can.”

Tuesday’s vote extended a moratorium the County Board granted in June that suspended parts of the county zoning and liquor ordinances. The move extends the moratorium to June 30 or until state restrictions are lifted enough to allow at least 75% capacity for indoor seating, whichever comes first.

Currently, state restrictions completely prohibit indoor dining, although some restaurants are not complying with the ban.

Buehler directed staff this week to draft a letter to holders of Class A liquor licenses for bars and restaurants in unincorporated McHenry County, offering those who have paid their 2020 renewal fees a waiver of their 2021 renewal fees, according to a release.

Class A liquor licenses are for businesses that sell alcohol to be consumed on-site. They also can sell unopened beverages to go.

License holders who have not yet paid their 2020 renewal fees need to do so before the Dec. 31 deadline to keep their licenses valid, according to the release. Those license holders then would be required to pay the 2021 renewal fee by the normal April 30 deadline in order to avoid having to reapply for their licenses in full.

For resources for McHenry County businesses of all sizes and their employees, the county has a website established at resumemchenrycounty.com.