Wedding barns may need a liquor license in Wisconsin

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Menomonie (WQOW) – Some of the trendiest wedding venues across Wisconsin could have to change how they operate. They could soon need liquor licenses.

“In our situation it could put us out of business,” said John Govin, owner of The Weddin’ Barn in Menomonie.

Govin said he may quickly lose customers after a letter Attorney General Brad Schimel sent to a state lawmaker on liquor license laws in Wisconsin. State law says any public place that wishes to serve or allow people to consume alcohol must have a liquor license. According to Schimel’s letter, venues like a wedding barn would fall under the same law.

Govin said wedding barns aren’t public places and getting a liquor license may not be easy in some townships. “We operate without a liquor license and that is based on the Department of Revenue’s opinion that we do not sell alcohol and we are not open to the public,” Govin said.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty said it strongly disagrees with Schimel’s opinion. “Where I think the Attorney General went wrong is by assuming that if one owns a property that one then leases to someone for their exclusive control that that is somehow the same as operating a public place of accommodation, and that’s just not the case,” said Rick Esenburg, President and General Council for The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.

Esenburg said if this was the case, apartments or hotel rooms would also be considered public places. “This doesn’t mean that the consumption of alcohol is entirely unregulated. A wedding barn doesn’t sell alcohol to the wedding party. The wedding party either buys it from a licensed retailer and brings it in or they have a caterer who has a licensed bartender who serves it,” Esenburg said.

Esenburg said they will be ready to battle it out in court, if it comes to that.

News 18 reached out to the Attorney General’s office for comment, but never heard back.

Justin Esterly

Justin Esterly

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