Proposed amendment could regulate tailgating, rural gatherings in Wisconsin

TOWN OF ASHIPPUN -- A proposed bill to extend the hours of wineries could end up regulating tailgating in Wisconsin. Critics say an amendment to the bill would require homeowners near Lambeau Field and Camp Randall Stadium to get a liquor license before allowing fans to tailgate in their yards. Those lobbying for the change say it's only targeting barn weddings.

"If you're having an event that you accept money and you have alcohol, there's an expectation that that is licensed. That's what our members do and if barns aren't going to be licensed, I guess we could make the argument we shouldn't be licensed," said Scott Stenger, a lobbyist for the Tavern League of Wisconsin.

The bill extends the hours at wineries, allowing them to remain open until midnight; they currently have to close at 9 p.m. The amendment says private property owners who rent out their land for events must have a liquor license in order for people to be allowed to drink.

The key excerpt reads "No owner or person in charge of property that is not a public place and who receives payment for temporary use of the property by another person for a specific event may permit the consumption of alcohol beverages on the property,
unless the person has an appropriate retail license or permit."

"In this case, that could include parking lots, that could include homes around Lambeau," said Collin Roth, a research fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.

A liquor license to allow tailgating at a house near Lambeau? WILL, a conservative group, said that's how some might read it.

"I think the law and the statue is clear right now. It says it's for an event and parking is not an event," said Stenger.

Collin Roth

"One government authority could interpret it the way the Tavern League has, but another could interpret it a different way and that's what we're concerned about," said Roth.

Barn owners push back; the bill stalls

While it might be hard to nail down who this amendment actually affects, Jessica Pike -- who's turning her Town of Ashippun barn into a wedding venue -- said it's unfair to barn owners who could have a hard time getting a permit from a small town or village.

"There are a limited amount of liquor licenses that can be issued," said Pike.

Jessica Pike

The bill and the amendment passed in the Assembly last month but, since then, two of the bill's coauthors - Rep. Romain Quinn (R - Barron) and Rep. Rob Hutton (R - Brookfield) - have withdrawn their names.

The Senate has not scheduled the bill for a vote. Stenger said given the tailgating controversy, the bill would likely go nowhere this session.

"If there is a problem with the legal definition, let’s fix it and move forward but there is zero – zero, zero – chance there is ever going to be legislation to require a license for tailgating," Stenger said.

Pike said if the bill does comes back next session with more specific language targeting barn weddings, the bill should also address the liquor license issue. Pike added she believes the best solution is to drop the issue altogether.

"It’s really just a matter of letting people carry on and doing what is our right if we’re not breaking any laws," she said.