Wisconsin State Legislature Passes Overhaul of Alcohol Laws

The Wisconsin Legislature on Tuesday passed a bill that makes a series of changes to the state’s alcohol laws.

Most of the changes under the bill have widespread support, and the bill passed with bipartisan support in both the Assembly and Senate. The Senate passed the bill, 21-11, with 14 Republicans and seven Democrats voting in favor of it. The Assembly passed the bill, 88-10; only seven Democrats and three Republicans voted against the bill in that chamber.

The bill would modernize laws governing the production and sale of beer, wine and liquor. The bill gives breweries new freedoms, such as the ability to mass produce canned mixed drinks, make hard seltzers and sell beers made outside of Wisconsin in their tap rooms.

Wineries would no longer have to close at 9 p.m. Bars could stay open until 4 a.m. during the 2024 Republican National Convention in the counties of Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine, Kenosha, Walworth, Dodge, Rock, Dane, Columbia, Fond du Lac and Sheboygan.

Large and small breweries, from MolsonCoors to New Glarus registered in favor of the bill. Kwik Trip and the Wisconsin Restaurant Association also back the measure.

However, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and Wisconsin Farmers Union were among the groups opposed to the bill. That’s because another provision requires wedding barn operators to either get a liquor license or obtain a separate approval for the ability to host no more than six events per year, where guests could only bring their own beer and wine.

One of the bill’s original co-authors, Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) said after Tuesday’s vote the wedding barn provision was meant to ensure wedding barns operated under the same rules as taverns and restaurants that host events, including wedding receptions.

“All this simply does is create a level playing field for these operators,” Testin said. “And sure, they’re gonna have to change their business model somewhat, but I still think they’re going to be profitable.”