Wedding barn owners seek veto on liquor license bill

Liquor license bill affecting wedding barns
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 5:47 PM CST
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GREENVILLE, Wis. (WBAY) - Wedding barn owners are asking the governor to veto Republican-backed legislation making major changes to some of the state’s liquor laws.

One of the provisions would force wedding barns to get a Class B liquor license, or drastically reduce the number of events they’re allowed to hold.

Since 1981, Homestead Meadows Farm in Greenville has hosted more than 1,700 weddings. The popular venue has never sold alcohol, so it never needed a liquor license. That’s something that could change after the passing of a bill this week, in both the state Assembly and Senate.

“It’s outlandish that we would have a muscular group of lobbyists being able to orchestrate the essentially the abolishment of a business model that people love.” Said Steve Nagy, the owner of Homestead Meadows Farm.

Supporters of the bill include the state Tavern League, which wedding barn owners accuse of attempting to eliminate competition for bars and restaurants. No one voting in favor of the bill spoke out during a debate on the Senate floor, but the opposition came from lawmakers in both parties.

“It’s wrong for us to pick winners and losers.” Said Democratic Senator Mark Spreitzer of Beloit. “It’s wrong for us to do the bidding of the Tavern League and pit good operators of bars and restaurants in all of our districts against wedding barns and non-profit museums, that are also in all of our districts.”

“This flies in the face of what Republicans stand for.” Said Republican Senator Steve Nass of Whitewater. “It’s free enterprise, it’s competition, less government interference, less regulation. I personally can’t believe the GOP is pushing this bill.”

Without a liquor license, wedding barns could only host six events per year, and no more than one event per month. Whether that provision stands, is now up to the governor.

“I think he will see through it and I hope that he will exercise his red pen to veto the whole thing or parts of it.” Said Nagy.

At this point, the Governor hasn’t indicated whether or not this legislation has his support or given a timetable for a decision

Plus, a bill passed by the State Senate would impact wedding barns that serve as event venues.