Bipartisan-supported alcohol industry overhaul opposed by wedding barn owners
A massive overhaul to the laws affecting the production, distribution, and sale of alcohol passed in the state Assembly on Wednesday with bipartisan support, according to the Associated Press. It was supported by groups from the smallest craft brewers to the largest national brewers, bar owners, and alcohol distributors, but faced strong opposition from owners of some special events venues.
The proposal would create a new division within the state Department of Revenue, which would be in charge of overseeing and enforcing the state’s alcohol laws.
The bill would require venues that provide alcohol at special events, known generally as wedding barns, to be regulated in a new way. They could either get a permit that would allow them to host events six times a year or no more than once a month — or obtain a liquor license that would allow them to sell alcohol at as many events as they wish.
Wedding barn owners mounted the loudest objections to the measure, saying the new requirements would be too expensive and onerous, and would put them out of business. Many wedding barns do not currently have liquor licenses. They instead contract with others who bring alcohol to the barns for events.
The bill would also allow for expanded hours at wineries and would regulate them the same as craft breweries and distilleries. It would permit brew pubs to operate stand-alone retail stores; allow craft breweries to sell products from other out-of-state breweries; create new guidance for contract brewing, winemaking, and distilling; and create a new statewide bartender license.
The measure now heads to the Senate for final approval. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who was involved with discussions of the measure, is expected to sign it into law.