FILE - Wedding barn

Wisconsin lawmakers are wrapping-up their work on the state's new budget this week, but there's a warning about some potentially unfinished business. 

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is raising the alarm that lawmakers may try and sneak in new regulations for wedding barns in the state.

"More than once, special interests have used the final motion in the Joint Finance Committee to slip in the type of ideas that cannot stand on their own in a public and transparent debate," WILL Deputy Counsel Lucas Vebber said. 

Wisconsin's powerful Tavern League is trying to get lawmakers to treat the barns just like other venues that host weddings. Namely, the Tavern League wants barn owners to get liquor licenses. 

Right now, people who rent one of the state's very popular wedding barns usually bring their own alcohol. 

The Tavern League issued a policy position earlier this year that says allowing guests at wedding barns to bring their own alcohol gives the barns an unfair advantage. 

"Government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers," the Tavern League's position paper states. "Yet that is what has happened when the Department of Revenue failed to require so-called wedding barns to obtain a liquor/beer license for events they contract for at their establishments."

WILL, Americans for Tax Reform, Americans for Prosperity – Wisconsin, FreedomWorks, Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association, the MacIver Institute, and the Badger Institute all signed an open letter to lawmakers this week saying it is the Tavern League that is trying to use the heavy hand of government get the unfair advantage. 

"Adding new red tape that threatens the livelihood of Wisconsin wedding barns is [a] bad idea, and we're concerned it's going to happen again," WILL's Vebber said. 

But state Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, who heads the state's budget writing panel, said on Twitter that WILL is trying to whip up wedding barn owners and some lawmakers in Madison. 

Nygren said WILL's claims are a "bold face lie" and added that the group is looking to "fundraise" off the issue. 

Nygren and the Joint Finance Committee hope to finalize their state budget by the end of the week.  They will then send it to Gov. Tony Evers to see what he will do with it. 


An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.