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WILL: Wedding Barn Rules Regulate Them Out of Existence

Wedding Barn Rules

A legal challenge to Wisconsin’s new rules for wedding barns may already be in the works.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty told The Center Square it is in the process of talking to wedding barn owners across the state about the next steps after it says the Wisconsin Legislature essentially voted to put them out of business.

Lawmakers at the Capitol voted on a sweeping overhaul of Wisconsin’s liquor laws. In addition to making changes for breweries, wineries, distributors and small shops, the overhaul includes new regulations for wedding barns.

“Barns can still host events, but those events can no longer involve the consumption of alcoholic beverages unless the barn owner does one of two things – either obtain a liquor license, essentially become a tavern, or obtain a ‘no sale event venue permit’ from the state. If they get that permit, they can only have six events per year where alcoholic beverages are served, and no more than one per month, and they can only allow the consumption of beer, not liquor,” Dan Lennington, with WILL, said.

Lennington said those two choices will essentially push most wedding barns out of business.

“Since most barn owners do not want to be in the tavern business, and by local ordinance probably could not be in that business regardless, the bill effectively regulates them out of existence,” Lennington said. “Venues won’t be able to operate on six beer-only events, over a six-month period. It severely limits their customer base.”

Wisconsin’s powerful Tavern League has been pushing lawmakers for years to change the rules for wedding barns, which had always been BYO.

The Tavern League says the new rules for wedding barns are about safety and fairness.

Lennington said the new rules are anti-free market and protectionist.

“This is absolutely a de facto block on wedding barns. Opponents of barns have been trying for years to essentially regulate them out of existence, and that is exactly what this legislation does by giving barn owners an impossible choice,” Lennington said. “These event venues do not sell alcohol, do not make any money off alcohol, and do not want to be in the business of selling and making money off alcohol.”

In addition to the wedding barn changes, the new liquor law rewrite also creates a new division inside the state’s Department of Revenue that will be responsible for overseeing and enforcing Wisconsin’s liquor laws.

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