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2038, 23 Aug 18

Wedding Barns Face Regulation

James Wigderson has the story. I thought Wisconsin was open for business?

Wisconsin’s event barn owners and operators are unhappy about the direction of a legislative study committee on the state’s alcohol distribution laws so far. These “wedding barn operators,” as they’re commonly known, have good reason to be concerned.

The chairman of the 2018 Legislative Council Study Committee on Alcohol Beverages Enforcement, Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander), is a former president of the Wisconsin Tavern League, and he’s determined to crack down on the competition. The committee is largely stacked in the Tavern League’s favor and not one event barn owner is a member of the committee.

At stake is a provision in the state law which allows these rural wedding venues to have alcohol on the premises for guests without having a liquor license. Wedding barns can allow alcohol to be served as long as the event is a private event and the wedding barn operators do not sell the alcohol – it must be purchased by the hosts of the private event.

The Legislative Council Study Committee will be meeting again on Wednesday. When the committee reconvenes, it will be hearing from the WATA for the first time. However, Swearingen has stacked the testimony by also adding three agricultural venue operators that are not working farms who also have liquor licenses for their venues.


2038, 23 August 2018


  1. Kevin Scheunemann

    I sense the heavy influence of Tavern League on this one.

    Whenever a Republican favors heavy regulation it is Tavern League or Wisconsin Restaurant Association influence.

    One of reasons I refuse to join WRA.

  2. Mark Hoefert

    This sounds like the efforts against eliminating the Minimum Mark-up Law.  Allegedly to protect the “mom and pop” gas stations and stores.  It has to be at least 25 years since I bought any gas or groceries at a “mom and pop” establishment – I don’t think I could find one in 30 mile radius.  In this case, it seems there must be some tavern operator with outsize influence who is butt-hurt about the competition from a wedding barn somewhere, the result being loss of venue business more than loss of liquor business.

    The private market looks to be doing fine without licensing.  If you personally host a private party involving alcohol, you are well advised to check with your home owner’s insurance policy – you may need a special liquor or event rider.  It looks like some venues actually require you to use a licensed and insured bartender, from their list of preapproved vendors, if you are to serve alcohol.

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