Wisconsin’s Wedding Venues Fight Back Against Liquor Law

A new licensing law in Wisconsin is being challenged by two wedding venues who believe it threatens their right to make a living in the state.

Weddings in Wisconsin

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On Tuesday two wedding barns in Wisconsin moved to sue the state in an attempt to block a new law that would force them both to obtain liquor licenses in order to operate.

One Joint Lawsuit

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The two businesses – Farmview Event Barn which is located in Berlin, and Monarch Valley Wedding & Events in Blair – filed a joint lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, on the grounds that the new law could hurt their businesses.

Overhauling the Liquor Industry

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The new law, which has seen the overhaul of the state’s regulation of the liquor industry, was first signed into law by Governor Tony Evers in 2023.

Licenses Now Required

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Under the law, a new division to enforce liquor laws has been created, as well as a new requirement that all wedding barns and many other public-available venues must have a liquor license in order to operate.

Harsh New Restrictions

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If a liquor license is not obtained, wedding barns will have to reduce the number of times they can serve alcohol at wedding events per year. Farmview Event Barn, Monarch Valley Wedding & Events, and many other wedding barns have openly decried the law.

“Extermination Bill”

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In fact, a coalition of venues attempted to kill the law last year, which they described as an “extermination bill.” This week’s lawsuit is the latest formal attempt to fight it.

Violation of the Constitution?

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The lawsuit was filed in Trempealeau County Circuit Court and directly accuses the Department of Revenue of violating the Wisconsin Constitution through non-uniform tax, as well as disregarding equal protection guarantees.

Preventing Competitive Innovation

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“The effect of the new regulatory framework, if not the intent, is to prevent competitive innovation in the wedding venue industry,” it argues. “The government lacks any power to engage in cronyism.”

Changing the meaning of Public Place

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“In fall of last year, the legislature passed Act 73 which was a law that changed the definition of public place, under state law,”  said attorney Lucas Vebber of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which filed the lawsuits on the business’s behalf.

Expanding Definitions

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“The definition has now expanded. It includes virtually any location in Wisconsin that is available to the public for rent, is now considered a public place and subject to licensing requirements,” he continued.

The Venues Jump In

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Jean Bahn, the operator of Farmview Event Barn, described hearing about the impending lawsuit and wanting to take an active part. “This business was something I researched thoroughly and knew it was something my family could help with,” she said.

Hard Enough to Stay Afloat

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She argued that it is already difficult enough for venues like hers to stay afloat, even without disruptive changes to industry laws. Bahn believes that the new law violates their right to earn a living in the state.

Eight Years of Work

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Bahn and her family have been running the business for eight years, on a working farm that offers a venue for weddings as well as baby showers and general parties.

“Taking Away My Profitability”

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“It’s taken away my ability to be profitable by limiting me to six events a year if I continue to operate as I am,” Bahn said of the new law.

“Not Here to Be a Millionaire”

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“I am not in here to be a millionaire. Honestly, the first five years, I probably spent every penny I made and more,” she added.

Both Venues Agree

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Daniel Gallagher, who owns Monarch Valley Wedding & Events, also believes that the law will put him out of business.

Neither Sells Alcohol

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Neither business sells alcohol to any of their patrons, which has made the law even harder to grapple with. They only provide the venue space and limited decor options, while their renters are required to supply all food and drink.

“That’s Not What They Do”

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“They don’t make any money off of alcohol, that’s not what they do at all, ” said Vebber. “They’re just simply renting the space and letting couples do what they want on their wedding day.”

Unfair Requirements

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But not all Wisconsin business owners agree with the two wedding barn’s stances. In fact, many public venues such as restaurants and bars have long maintained that it is unfair that wedding barns were never required to obtain a liquor license.

“No Sale Event Venue Permit”

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If the lawsuit fails and the two venues refuse to obtain licenses, they can arrange a “no sale event venue permit,” which will only allow them to rent out their properties for six days per year and one day per month.

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The postWisconsin’s Wedding Venues Fight Back Against Liquor Law first appeared on Liberty & Wealth.

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The content of this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute or replace professional financial advice.

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