Wedding Barn Regulations Removed From DNC Bar Hours Bill

The Plan Passed An Assembly Committee Thursday

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A row of beer glasses for tasting
QuinnDombrowski (CC-BY-SA)

A controversial proposal to regulate wedding barns has been removed from a bill to extend bar hours during the week of the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee.

A state Assembly panel voted unanimously Thursday to remove the plan, which would have imposed a new $750 annual fee on wedding barn operators. The committee voted 13-1 to pass the rest of the DNC bar hours bill, with only Rep. Gary Tauchen, R-Bonduel, voting against.

The plan would let municipalities statewide extend closing hours until 4:00 a.m. from July 13 to July 17. Without the change, bars and restaurants would have to close when they normally do at 2:00 a.m.

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It’s being pushed by several groups with ties to the alcohol industry, including the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the Tavern League of Wisconsin. They say it would help local businesses make more money from the thousands of people who will participate in the DNC but might not leave the convention hall in Milwaukee until after midnight.

But the Tavern League wanted to tie the plan to new regulations on wedding barn owners who have drawn the ire of Tavern League members. They argue that wedding barns are able to effectively operate as bars without paying the same license fees and facing the same regulations that taverns do.

RELATED: DNC Bar Hours Bill Could Apply Statewide

Conservative groups, like the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin, have sided with wedding barn owners in this fight, arguing that their business model should be celebrated and not subject to increased regulation.

In the end, Assembly lawmakers decided to save that fight for another day.

The amendment that passed the Assembly Committee on State Affairs would make other changes to the original bill. It would keep in place the state’s 9 p.m. year-round closing time for wineries, whereas the bill would have moved it to midnight.

At the same time, the amendment would leave in place a new closing time for breweries, who face no legal closing time under current law. Under the bill, breweries would have to close when other bars do.

The plan now heads to the full Assembly, where Speaker Robin Vos has said it will get a vote next week.

But it remains unclear whether it will get a vote in the Senate, which plans to finish its work for the year in March.

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