Last year Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law that finally allowed bars and restaurants to offer Happy Hour in Illinois, ending a 26-year period where establishments weren’t allowed to give discounts on alcohol.
Bars and boozehounds rejoiced as Illinois became one of the few remaining states to drop heavy restrictions on Happy Hour. But another beneficiary of the new law has been Chicago startup BarPass, a company looking to offer Happy Hour goers alcohol specials in a ClassPass-like membership model.
BarPass launched 5 weeks ago and was founded by Phil Castro, a Chicago entrepreneur who previously launched Luxward, a rewards app for people who spend big at Chicago night clubs.
BarPass is aimed at the after-work bar crowd, and provides members with weekly events and drink specials at trendy Chicago bars. BarPass users typically get one hour of free drinks, followed by three hours of bar specials that only members receive, Castro said. The startup does about 5 to 6 events per month, and has so far worked with venues like Prime & Provisions, Rockit Bar & Grill and Virgin Hotel.
Castro says he’s still working out the pricing, but for now the membership is free–meaning you can have access to BarPass’ hour of booze and three hours of specials at no additional cost. This is intended to build up the startup’s user base, and in 6-months or so the company will roll out its paid membership model, Castro said. He said the price will be between $25 and $75 a month, and will allow you to bring guests who can also access your drink specials.
“We want to set up a little community of Happy Hour goers,” Castro said.
BarPass isn’t the only startup tackling the “ClassPass for bars” model. Hooch, based in New York, charges $10/month and gives you one drink per day at a different bar. The main difference with BarPass is the “bring a friend” feature. Castro says BarPass users will be able to bring between 3 and 10 friends, depending on the event. The idea to to create more of a networking and office hangout experience, Castro said, and he’s already partnering with local companies and conferences to get employees and attendees using the platform.