Adapting Wisconsin's liquor laws to account for evolving industry

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) - Big changes are being proposed to the state's liquor laws in a bill which would impact breweries, wineries and distilleries.  Local 5's Kris Schuller reports the legislation's author says it all boils down to fairness.  

At Titletown Brewery - employees are busy bottling up a new batch of beer.  But under current law owner Brent Weycker can only make so much product in a year, 10,000 barrels, regardless of demand.

“Most industries don't live under a cap that says you can't make this many cars or make this many sandwiches,” said Weycker.

And at Captain's Walk Winery - PJ Koehler has to close for business at 9 p.m. each night even though he doesn't want to.

“Other venues can stay open until 2 a.m.,” said Koehler. “We feel it is unfair to us to have to close at 9 p.m.”

But now a state lawmaker is trying to change these rule and many others in a proposed bill he's calling ‘Cheers Wisconsin’ which is aimed at relaxing long-held restrictions on breweries, distilleries and wineries. 

“Sadly, those laws no longer take into account this very diversified alcohol environment we have,” said Rep. Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls).

Under the bill yearly production caps for brewpubs would increase from 10,000 barrels to 20,000 barrels. It would extend the closing hour for wineries from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. and allow distilleries to offer sales and samples of spirits on-site.

“We need to give these fine businesses enough latitude to operate and be successful as well,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman's bill comes after talk in June of a possible bill aimed at ending on-site sales for breweries and wineries.  His bill goes the opposite direction.

“It is all meant to establish equality and fairness,” said Zimmerman.

By ending old regulations - holding this growing industry down.

 

 


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