Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature are proposing changes to wine, beer and liquor sales in Wisconsin.
During a press conference on Tuesday a Dane County craft brewery, state Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) said the state needs to modernize its existing “three tier” system of alcoholic beverage regulations, to reflect the needs of a growing industry. “In 2011 we had 75 small breweries. In 2016 there were over a 140. That is an 86 percent increase in just five years,” Harsdorf said.
She noted that the number of wineries in the state increased by 144 percent over roughly the same time period, to over 100.
Among other things, the bill creates a new permit called a “distillpub permit,” and expands the number of liquor licenses that can be offered by local units of government. “Right now, we’ve got municipalities that can attract businesses, but they literally don’t have the liquor licenses that are critical to attracting those businesses.”
The three-tier system of alcohol distribution, which was widely adopted by states after the repeal of federal prohibition, consists of importers or producers, distributors, and retailers. The basic structure of the system is that producers can sell their products only to wholesale distributors who then sell to retailers, and only retailers may sell to consumers. Producers include brewers, wine makers, distillers and importers.
State Representative Shannon Zimmerman (R-Falls) operates a winery near River Falls. “In small business — and that’s what were talking about here — you should be able to win by your own accord. Government should not be able to determine whether you win or you lose.”
Zimmerman says there’s enough revenue to go around for all the state’s producers and purveyors of alcohol. “We celebrate our taverns, our supper clubs, our craft brewers, our distilleries and our wineries. And we have to stop thinking that there’s a specific or finite amount of revenue to go around. That’s simply not the case.”