Wisconsin breweries and wineries on guard after proposal to ban direct sales revealed

Customers drinking beer at Ale Asylum's Madison, Wisconsin, brewery and taproom // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg, The Growler

Customers drinking beer at Ale Asylum’s Madison, Wisconsin, brewery and taproom // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg, The Growler

As the negotiations over the Wisconsin state budget continues this week, a memo obtained by a conservative group has the Badger State’s microbreweries and wineries mobilizing to head off a proposal that would end direct retail sales and self-distribution for the beverage producers.

According to report by the Associated Press, the memo, which was obtained by the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, outlines a proposal to prohibit breweries and wineries from having any ownership in a distribution or retail operation. This would effectively eliminate the state’s taprooms and tasting rooms where producers sell products directly to consumers and would prohibit producers from self-distributing their products to retail accounts. Instead, the beverage producers would have to work through a distributor to sell their products.

In addition, a new Office of Alcohol Beverages Enforcement would take over alcohol regulation from the state Department of Revenue, and would be tasked with making sure producers don’t distribute or sell their own alcoholic products.

While no bill has been introduced yet, Wisconsin brewery and winery owners, along with industry groups, are concerned that the state’s budget committee could add the regulations to the budget bill using a secretive, last-minute measure known as a 999 motion.

It’s unclear who is advocating for the changes. According to the AP report, while opponents say that the Wisconsin Tavern League and the state’s distributors are behind the proposal, a lobbyist for the Tavern League and the executive director of the distributors association both denied having anything to do with the memo.

[H/T Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]