In early August, a group of lawmakers introduced a bill that would loosen the restrictions on small breweries, wineries, and distilleries in Wisconsin.
The bill—dubbed the “Cheers Wisconsin!” Bill—aims to streamline rules and make it easier for these smaller businesses to operate. The current three-tier system, in which someone makes the product, another person distributes it, and yet another person sells it—with regulations preventing role crossover, goes back to the 1930s. The bill would:
- Increase the production capacity of breweries (from 10,000 to 20,000 barrels) and wineries (from 25,000 to 50,000 gallons)
- Increase the number of locations breweries can operate (from six to 12) and allow breweries to sell liquor on premises or at offsite retail locations, essentially allowing them to operate like traditional bars
- Increase the number of Class B liquor licenses a municipality can issue by 10 percent
- Allow the Wisconsin Department of Revenue to create a permit for “distillpubs”
- Allow wineries to sell their products past the 9 p.m. restriction, until 2 a.m.
Earlier in the summer, a bill was being discussed for stricter regulations on brewers, wineries, and distilleries, which would have prevented this companies from selling their products directly to customers even in their own facilities and taprooms. There was concern among these small businesses that this legislation would be added to the state budget at the last minute, but that did not happen.