, , , ,

New Bill Would Extend Operating Hours For Wisconsin Wineries

State Tavern League: Change Would Blur Lines Between Manufacturers, Retailers

People drinking wine at a winery
Andy Manis/AP Photo

Wisconsin lawmakers are looking to introduce legislation to extend business hours for wineries in the state.

Under current law, wineries selling alcohol on the premises have to close by 9 p.m. But a bill circulating for co-sponsorship would extend the closing time to midnight.

The co-sponsorship memo said the change would allow the businesses to “hold evening events such as wedding receptions.”

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Alwyn Fitzgerald, president of the Wisconsin Winery Association, said the change would allow wineries to better compete with craft breweries and other locations.

“Customers get frustrated because if we’re having live music or there’s some other event going on, they have to vacate the premises by nine,” Fitzgerald said. “Pretty much the entire rest of the world is still open out there including bars and restaurants and breweries and brew pubs.”

Fitzgerald said most wineries rely on customers who come to their location for tours of and to experience the facility

We’re a destination business. People seek out wineries, they will come to a community or a region specifically to go to wineries,” Fitzgerald said.

But the Tavern League of Wisconsin said the change would blur the lines between alcohol manufacturers and retailers.

“We don’t oppose wineries having events until midnight or later, whatever they want, if they’re selling wine. But when they have an unfair advantage and trying to sell beer and compete with our members unfairly, that’s where we’ve registered our opposition to the bill,” said Scott Stenger, spokesman for the Tavern League of Wisconsin.

Stenger said wineries don’t have to pay the wholesale costs bars do and they benefit from sales outside of their location. He said allowing them to increase their serving hours would tip the scale too far in their favor.

A winery got into this business knowing what the rules were, and now they want to change the rules because they want to take advantage of the manufacturer status that they have and to try to compete with many of my members on a Packers Saturday or other type of parties where we cant and don’t have the revenues that wineries do,” Stenger said.

The proposed legislation would also allow municipalities to create more restrictive hours for wineries through a local ordinance.