William D. O'Donaghue's Profile Image

William D. O'Donaghue

Phone: 312.726.8797

With more than 25 years of experience as a regulator and private attorney, William O’Donaghue has a deep understanding of the complex regulatory, legislative and licensing issues facing clients in the alcoholic-beverage and hospitality industries.

A former City of Chicago License Appeal Commission chairman, Bill is well-versed in the retail operations of the alcoholic-beverage industry. He was appointed to the panel by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley in 1990 and successfully implemented a new law, the Liquor Dealer Ordinance, that increased the commission’s caseload by more than 600 percent. Many of his rulings and decisions are still used as precedent today.

In January 2004, Bill became chief counsel to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, serving as the main legal advisor to the Commission, overseeing the appeals docket, enforcement citations and revenue cases. While on the state commission, Bill also served as the lead legislative negotiator in the wake of the Granholm decision. In this role, he was a chief legislative architect of successful legislation preserving the right of Illinois wineries to self distribute and creating a winery shipper's license.

Bill also concentrates his practice on economic development and other public policy matters. From 2007-2010, he served as the acting general counsel/deputy general counsel for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. While at the state’s primary grant-making agency, he worked on state incentive packages for Ford Motor Company, Chrysler, Centerpoint Properties and other major corporations.

He has also worked closely on legal matters with the Illinois Board of Tourism Office, the Department’s Business Development Program and all of the related grant, tax incentive and loan participation programs, the Office of International Trade Investment, Renewable Energy Programs, Coal Development, Workforce Development and other programs.

Bill returned to private practice in November 2010 and joined Georges & Synowiecki in 2014.

  • IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, J.D.
  • Boston College, B.A.
Bar Admissions
  • Illinois
Professional Memberships
  • National Conference of State Liquor Administrators
  • National Association of License Compliance Professionals
  • Illinois Restaurant Association
  • Small Business Advocacy Council
  • Illinois Craft Brewers Guild
Representative Matters

Represented a major national brewer in a legislative and legal matter regarding the client’s ownership interest in a number of beer distributors.

Testified before the Illinois Liquor Control Commission regarding the history surrounding the approval of an ownership interest in a number of beer distributors by major national brewer.

Drafted and was the lead negotiator of an industry wide effort to pass legislation implementing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Granholm decision in Illinois. Worked closely with all sectors of the industry, including IGGVA, ABDI, WSDI, the Wine Institute, IRMA, and ILBA. The legislation, which passed without opposition, preserved the right of Illinois wineries to self-distribute and to ship directly to consumers. It also protected and preserved the tenets of the three-tier system.

Led the investigation and prosecution of an alcohol beverage industry-wide series of violations while at the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. The investigation and prosecution resulted in record fines being assessed and paid by members of all three tiers of the industry. It also resulted in a more open and competitive market place for consumers.

Successfully lobbied the Illinois General Assembly for an exception to the 100 feet rule on behalf of a major grocery chain.

Assisted a client in leading the successful efforts to develop a Vertiport in the City of Chicago.

Assisted and advised a craft brewer in negotiations to obtain investor financing in order to expand operations and increase production.

Assisted and advised a craft distiller in negotiating more favorable terms with its distributor and in expanding the sale of its product to other states.

Successfully assisted and advised a major national housewares retailer in obtaining a liquor license for a new store-within-a store concept.

Assisted in the development and negotiations of a new tax incentive program and package for major automotive manufacturers. Drafted the legislation needed to implement the new program and assisted in the efforts to obtain passage of the legislation.

Served as counsel to the Illinois Film Office on issues related to major film productions such as The Dark Knight, The Informant! and Transformers, as well as numerous other film, television and commercial productions.

Publications and Speaking Engagements

In addition to authoring publications on alcohol beverage law, Bill O’Donaghue has spoken before groups such as the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators, the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois, the Illinois Beverage Association, and the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association.

  • Lecturer, “The three-tier system; does it really exist in Illinois and other related topics,” IIT/Chicago-Kent College of Law, August 2013
  • Author, “How to use economic development Incentives to boost profit.” Industry Week and Manufacturing, February 2013
  • Presenter, “Marketing Trends and Alcohol Beverages,” Promotion Marketing Association’s Annual Legal Symposium, November 2012
  • Presenter, “Thank Your Lawyer,” National Conference of State Liquor Administrators annual conference, June 2012
  • Author, “Do happy hour laws make you unhappy?” National Association of Licensed Compliance Professionals’ Newsletter, March 2012
  • Author, Illinois Beverage Guide, Illinois Licensed Beverage Association, March 2011