WHEELERweek – Liquor Laws

As published by The Wheeler Report – 02/07/1974

The Senate Thursday morning indefinitely postponed, and refused to reconsider, a bill (SB-690) establishing uniform bar closing hours for the state and removing local option on closings. The vote was 23-6 to kill the bill and reconsideration was refused on a voice vote.

Debate on the measure centered on traffic safety (close all bars at the same time to avoid rushes from one closing to one staying open later) and home rule (the state shouldn’t tell the local units how to run their bars’ closings.).

A Brief History…

1973 SB-690 would have established uniform closing hours in Wisconsin for retail beer and liquor bars. A bill to modify the laws governing the sales and taxation of alcoholic beverages was introduced in 1977 AJR-82, which resulted in a special committee that introduced 1979 AB-1261. Eventually most of the measures relating to tavern hours of operation were passed in 1981. 1987 Act 121 changed the closing hours of taverns on weekdays from 1 am- 8 am to 2 am – 6 am, and from 2 am to 8 am to 2:30 am – 6 am on Saturdays and Sundays.

At all of the Joint Finance public hearings on the 2017-19 budget, legislators received testimony by local winery owners asking for a change in the winery hours to help with business expansion to compete with neighboring communities in other states that do not have limits on winery hour sales, and to be able to better serve weddings and receptions held at their locations.

Special thanks to the Legislative Reference Bureau and the Legislative Council with their help in providing documents necessary to compile this article.

And Today…

SB-311/AB-433 concerned both the closing hours of wineries and when they can make retail sales of wine. The proposed legislation would have changed those hours to midnight instead of 9 pm. Local municipalities would have been given the ability to further restrict those hours by ordinance. SB-311 did not pass the senate. An amendment was added 2017 AB-433 before Assembly passage that affected tailgating situations near Lambeau Field, including the rental of private property to hold a pre-game party and tailgating outside of a private house after paying to park in the driveway. A consequence of the amendment was that anyone who receives payment for the use of their property would have to have a retail license or permit to sell alcohol if alcohol is consumed on the property. AB-433 also extended winery hours until midnight, which was a priority for wineries to have passed. The tailgating portion of the bill caused some concern, as it affects many Wisconsin Badger and Green Bay Packer fans and is not widely popular. Ultimately the proposal failed to pass the legislature pursuant to SJR-1.