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Wisconsin's New Liquor Law Threatens Wedding Barns

Back in June and on a Friday, Wisconsin's new liquor law was introduced in the Assembly. To our surprise, some wording regarding "wedding barns" was added at the last minute. We didn't find out about it until AFTER the public hearing which occurred the following Tuesday. Clearly, the bill's authors didn't want wedding barns to know about the new law but a few did show up to testify at the public hearing. But not enough. The Assembly ended up passing the bill and sent it to the State Senate where it will be voted on in September.

Bridle Barn & Gardens is in our 10th year. We've survived COVID and an earlier attempt to drive wedding barns out of business in 2019. This bill, as it reads now, puts all wedding barns back in the cross-hairs.

The bill's sponsors and the Wisconsin Tavern League make it sound like they're doing us a favor in one breath and that it's the "wild, wild west" in another. In 10 years, we've never had a problem renting out grounds for private events. Our guests WANT the option of arranging for their own food and beverage. If this bill passes, our guests will lose that option.

Again, since we’re a “by invitation only” private event venue, we’ve allowed the guests renting our facility to provide their own food and beverage. We know this hasn’t set well with many legislators, especially Rep. Rod Swearingen and The Wisconsin Tavern League. Mr. Swearingen is a former supper club owner who felt a wedding barn in his area was "stealing business" from him. He's a former board chair of the Wisconsin Tavern League and, with their help, negotiated this bill with big beer brewers, craft brewers -- even Kwik Trip. Never did they include the wedding barns or the Wisconsin Ag Tourism Association in those discussions. I can assume nothing else but that they want wedding barns gone.

Please know we think AB304 and SB332 are good bills that bring much-needed modernization to Wisco's liquor law. But, as is often the case when special interests get involved, it was made a bad bill when the "wedding barn" language was added in an "oh, by the way" moment. An amendment to eliminate this language is crucial. If you feel like I do, consider a brief email to your representative -- particularly your state senator. Tell them to amend the bill to exclude wedding barns. You can find your representative here. ~ Robin Marohn

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