In Wisconsin, it’s not at all unusual to rent out a barn for a private party or even a wedding reception. What has come to issue now is whether barn owners who rent their barns for private events must follow state laws that are aimed as businesses that sell alcohol. Wisconsin’s outgoing attorney general has now given his opinion on the issue. His conclusion is that barn owners must comply with state liquor laws, even for private events. That opinion isn’t binding though.
Given the high level of alcohol consumption in Wisconsin, the state’s Tavern League has strong lobbying power in Madison. The Tavern League is said to want to eliminate its competition. As per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Tavern League’s chief lobbyist contends that the league’s members are in compliance with all state laws. He is accusing barn owners of “running us out of business because of the significant advantage they have over us.” According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, liquor licenses in Wisconsin can cost up to $30,000 for businesses in newly developed districts that are appraised at $20 million.
A spokesman from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty says that the issue is a matter of competition that the Tavern League doesn’t want. He remarked that the broad interpretation of Wisconsin’s liquor laws would mean that somebody renting out their home would require a permit before anybody could consume alcoholic beverages on the premises. The attorney general maintains that his analysis of state law is impartial and purely based on applicable statutes.
According to USA Today, Wisconsin is the drunkest state in the United States behind South Dakota. This stormy debate comes after 2015 guidelines were released by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services that require repurposed agricultural facilities that are used as buildings for use by the public to comply with the state’s public building code. There is presently an exception for barn owners. More traditional wedding sites say that barns are both unsafe and unfair. Most municipalities don’t require wedding barns to have liquor licenses or licensed bartenders.