April 18, 2019
DOR Private Event Fact Sheet
The State Regulatory agency for alcohol beverages in Wisconsin is the Department of Revenue. The Department recently updated their position on when an alcohol beverage license is required despite the fact there has been no change in the statute. We had an opportunity to meet with Secretary Barca to discuss Fact Sheet 3111. Secretary Barca has told us he and his staff are continuing to work on the issue and may have changes to Fact Sheet 3111 in the next two weeks. Unless or until we hear differently from the Department, we will use DOR Fact Sheet 3111 as a guide to inform our members of the law regarding when a license is required. Just like every private event held by our members, we believe wedding barns should be licensed.“DOR’s interpretation is wrong, and if logically extended, would permit any rental facility for “private events” to escape the licensure requirements. In fact, a restaurant or bar could easily escape licensure requirements if they structured their event as “private” or “members only” and did not sell alcohol, but merely “rented” the facility to a third party for a high fee. The new DOR position will allow you the opportunity to do exactly what the former Chief of Staff to the Attorney General detailed. It will be up to you to decide if you want to take advantage of it.It is relatively easy to meet the Department’s position of a private event and not be licensed:1. There can be no sale of alcohol on the premise but alcohol can be brought in.2. The event cannot be on a licensed premise.3. The event must be private or for members only.
The DOR’s opinion will supersede any local ordinances or regulations related to licensing. This new interpretation of the law will dramatically change the regulation and licensure of alcohol in Wisconsin.
Despite two Attorney General’s position stating that licensure is required for private events at public venues where alcohol is consumed the new DOR interpretation does not require licensure and significantly deregulates alcohol licensing in Wisconsin. We intend to provide our Members with this information which may provide many new business opportunities outside of licensure. It is perfectly legal and permitted under the new DOR position to operate a business without requiring to be licensed. As stated in a memo on this issue to then Attorney General Schimel from his Chief of Staff:
Alcohol carried in for an unlicensed private event does not need to be purchased through a licensed wholesaler. Closing hours and the state smoking ban do not apply to a private event. We spent the last two years urging the state DOR to follow Attorney General Schimel and Attorney General Doyle’s legal opinion on this issue and they have chosen a different direction. We do not intend to have the rules only apply to certain businesses while financially hurting our members. We want to provide our members with the option of exploiting this licensing loophole endorsed by the Department of Revenue.DOR Private Event Venues• Do not have to obtain municipal alcohol license. • DNR private well water testing not required.• Not subject to local ordinances other licensed premises are.• Are not required to purchase beer wine or liquor through a licensed wholesaler.• Are not required to follow the state workplace smoking ban.• Do not have to have licensed bartenders.• Do not have to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act.• Do not collect and remit state sales and excise taxes.• Have no closing hours.• Do not have to following fire code safety regulations.• Do not have to complete a food safety course.• Do not have to pay music royalty fees.• Do not have to follow local ordinances related to licensed establishments.• Do not have to follow noise ordinances related to licensed establishments.• May not have proper commercial insurance.• Do not have to comply with provisions of Chapter 125.
We have heard concerns from many of our members regarding what local officials or law enforcement may do if we follow the new DOR guidelines. We understand those concerns which is why we are providing you with this information to make local officials aware of these new guidelines. We are just following the law as set forth by the state alcohol enforcement agency. Local municipalities and law enforcement must also follow the new DOR interpretation of the law.
Under the new DOR guidelines no alcohol license or permit is required:
• A room or vacant building to lease/rent for private events.• Member’s only venues with no direct sale of alcohol but a membership fee is permitted.
• Private event rooms attached to a licensed premise (see below)
You can obtain a copy of the DOR Fact Sheet here and please feel free to provide it to your local elected officials and law enforcement community.