Study Committee Update: Alcohol Beverages Enforcement Committee Discusses Three-Tier, Agency Enforcement

The Study Committee on Alcohol Beverages Enforcement met for the second time on Aug. 22.

The hearing started with attorneys from Wisconsin Towns and Wisconsin Municipalities Associations discussing how they handle inquiries from their members as to what is and is not allowable under Wisconsin law. Both groups said that they predominantly deal with the Department of Revenue whenever they have questions, but their perception was that sometimes the laws in regard to enforcement are vague.

Next to present was Michael Madigan, an attorney from Minnesota who represents the National Beer Distributors. His presentation highlighted his position on the benefits of the three-tier system.

Abigail Potts from the Department of Justice (DOJ) followed Madigan. Potts is credited for writing the informal attorney general opinion regarding retail licenses issued to wineries and breweries, which in part has brought about a call for further interpretation and enforcement related to Wisconsin’s three-tier system. In true courtroom style, public committee member Mike Wittenwyler, who represents the Wisconsin Beer Distributors and the Wine and Spirits Institute grilled Potts on how DOJ arrived at their position (primarily that beer can be sold at wineries) and whether or not they exercise any enforcement authority of Wisconsin’s three-tier laws.

In what was already starting to become a hearing driven by the different alcohol factions, the owners of wedding barns spent the next 3.5 hours testifying as to why they believe they are being treated unfairly under Wisconsin law.

The next hearing will focus on how some believe it is too easy to direct ship into Wisconsin because there is little enforcement, and how much money the state is losing in tax revenue because of this.

Additionally, Legislative Council was asked to put together some options and interpretations of what is a “pubic place,” what is a “private venue,” the definition of “selling,” and some options for how to address the wedding barns.

The next meeting is Sept. 26. There will be no meeting in October, but Swearingen expects a November and December meeting.

Committee members and documents