The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) strongly encourages the Senate Committee on Universities and Revenue to amend AB 304/ SB 332, particularly as the bill relates to the regulation of Wisconsin’s “wedding barn” industry.
The Quote: WILL Deputy Counsel, Lucas Vebber, stated, “Do you really want to outlaw wedding barns, and prohibit Wisconsin families from renting a lake house and serving Miller Lite at their family reunion? That flies in the face of individual liberty and common sense. Today, WILL strongly encouraged policymakers to amend legislation that would impose regulatory burdens, restrict competition, and decimate the livelihoods of farmers around the state.”
Background: Wisconsin law requires a liquor license in two instances: (1) for the sale of alcohol (Wis. Stat. § 125.04(1)) and (2) for the consumption of alcohol in a “public place” (Wis. Stat. § 125.09(1)). For years, farmers have legally rented out their barns to wedding parties—allowing the newlyweds to bring their own alcohol and serve it to their guests if they so choose—because neither of these circumstances apply to wedding barns, which are not “public places.”
However, provisions within the omnibus bill would upend this long-standing tradition and expand the definition of “public place” to cover wedding barns and other private event venues, leaving owners one of two options. They would either need to become licensed in the same manner as a tavern or operate under a “no-sale event venue permit.” That permit would limit wedding barns (and other private event venues) to operating no more than six days per year, and a maximum of one day per month. Liquor consumption would also be prohibited. Operating in the same manner as a tavern is not an option for many existing venues because of zoning restrictions or the investments necessary to qualify for a Class-B license.
This legislation makes a number of other changes to Wisconsin’s three-tier alcohol regulation system. Our opposition today is limited exclusively to the event venue changes. We urge policymakers to remove these event venue changes, which are little more than an attempt to use the heavy hand of government to limit competition and consumer choice.
- WILL Testimony in Opposition to AB 304/ SB 332, August 17, 2023
Read more about this issue here.