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July/August 2019 Issue

Also in this issue: ABCs on CBD     |     Wisconsin Legislature Considers Senate Bill 105 to Exempt Municipalities From Fair Dealership Law     |     Metadata is a Public Record: What Does This Mean for Municipalities?

Wedding Barn Alcohol Licensing Update: Evers Administration Not Requiring Wedding Barns to Hold Alcohol Licenses

In March, Governor Tony Evers stated that his administration does not interpret Wisconsin’s alcohol licensing law as requiring owners of wedding barns to hold alcohol licenses for private events where alcohol is not sold by the owner. This is counter to former Attorney General Brad Schimel’s November 16, 2018, informal analysis that concluded wedding barns are “public places” subject to alcohol licensing laws. AG Schimel’s analysis sparked confusion among municipalities and businesses, and a lawsuit by wedding barn owners against Governor Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, which is ongoing as of this writing. 

Because Governor Evers’ position is consistent with prior Department of Revenue practices, there should be little regulatory impact to municipalities from the announcement—at least as far as wedding barns are concerned. In news releases, the Tavern League of Wisconsin continues to believe that wedding barns should be required to hold alcohol licenses. The Tavern League views the Evers Administration’s position as allowing a “licensing loophole” that also may be used by restaurants and taverns to own adjacent but unlicensed private event rooms that may be rented out for carry-in alcohol consumption. It is possible that the Tavern League’s opinion may spark businesses holding alcohol licenses to request changes to their licensed premises.  

The Department of Revenue appears to be working on a new Fact Sheet (Fact Sheet 3111) for when a person must obtain an alcohol beverage retail license. The comment period closed on April 10, 2019, and the draft Fact Sheet is no longer available on the DOR website. As presented for comment, the draft Fact Sheet supported both the Evers Administration’s position on wedding barns and the Tavern League’s interpretation allowing separate but unlicensed premises adjacent to licensed premises. Municipalities should continue to pay attention to this issue as it unfolds.

This newsletter is published and distributed for informational pur- poses only. It does not offer legal advice with respect to particular situations, and does not purport to be a complete treatment of the legal issues surrounding any topic. Because your situation may differ from those described in this Newsletter, you should not rely solely on this information in making legal decisions.

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