United States: A Four Pack Of Legal Developments Affecting Wisconsin Craft Brewers, Distillers And Consumers

Last Updated: March 21 2016
Article by Robert J. Heinrich

Here are four quick legal updates that pertain to the craft beer and liquor world in Wisconsin.  Befitting the time of year, it is best to enjoy this article with a Doppelbock.

Growlers, Growlers, Everywhere

A bill aimed at expanding growler sales is moving through the Wisconsin legislature.  Senate Bill 283 was proposed in September 2015 and amended in January 2016.

Class "A" retailers (for example, grocery stores and convenience stores) presently may sell prepackaged beer, but not beer in refillable containers such as growlers and crowlers.  Holders of Class "B" licenses—such as bars—are not explicitly authorized under the statute to offer growler fills, yet that is the generally accepted interpretation.  Some grocers have received Class "B" licenses and currently fill growlers.1  This bill would allow companies holding Class "A" licenses to get into the growler‑filling business without needing any additional licenses.  More local, fresh beer will be the happy result for the Wisconsin consumer.

The bill goes even further.  While the existing statute is clear that brewpubs are allowed to fill growlers, it is silent on whether breweries are permitted to do so.  The industry has interpreted the statutory silence as acceptance:  A trip to nearly any brewery taproom reveals that growler fills are widespread.  The January amendment to this bill clarifies the statute by granting express permission for brewers to fill growlers.

The original bill also provided that brewers, brewpubs and wholesalers could sell certain equipment and services, related to the filling of growlers, at "fair market value" to Class "A" licensees that sell growlers.  However, the January amendment substantially narrowed this provision—presumably to avoid potential coercive tactics by larger brewers.  As a result, after this amendment, brewers, brewpubs and wholesalers would be permitted to offer tap knobs and signage, related to the sale of beer in growlers, to Class "A" licensees.

Relaxation of Zoning Ordinances

Cities are increasingly appreciating the sense of community and excitement that breweries, brewpubs, beer gardens and distilleries can foster.  (More tax dollars don't hurt, either.)  As such, cities are becoming more accommodating towards these kinds of developments.2  Proof that this is a hot topic:  While I was proofreading this article, a city contacted us asking for our guidance in tweaking its zoning ordinances to accept breweries.

One Wisconsin city that has recently revised its ordinances to expressly permit breweries is Racine.  Under the new City of Racine ordinances, a brewery, a brewery with a restaurant, and a brewpub,3 in each case producing less than 1,000 barrels per year, are now allowed as conditional uses in "community shopping districts."  Moreover, the amended Racine ordinances permit breweries as conditional uses in certain "industrial districts"—without imposing a production ceiling on these brewers.  Note, however, that while restaurants and breweries are authorized in these industrial districts, brewpubs are apparently not.

As communities revise their zoning ordinances, they should take care to address all such possibilities and also ensure that any revisions are in harmony with state and federal laws.  Likewise, brewers and brewpub owners need to be aware of what is (and is not) permitted under local zoning ordinances.

Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act

The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, introduced in June 2015, is intended to reduce taxes on the brewing, distilling and winemaking industries and streamline certain regulations—both for craft brewers and for macro brewers.  Accordingly, the bill has the support of the craft‑focused Brewers Association as well as the Beer Institute.

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D‑WI) is an original cosponsor of the bill and, in October 2015, Senator Ron Johnson (R‑WI) became a cosponsor.  Fifteen states have split‑party representation in the Senate; only four have Senators from both sides of the aisle supporting this legislation.  So, beer still unites us here in politically polarized Wisconsin.  We all want to see our burgeoning craft beer industry flourish.

One final note:  None of the Senators still running for President—Ted Cruz (R‑TX), Marco Rubio (R‑FL) and Bernie Sanders (I/D‑VT)—have signed on as cosponsors to the bill.  No beer for them!

Liquor Licenses and Premier Economic Development Districts

The number of "Class B" liquor licenses4 that a Wisconsin municipality may issue is generally determined by a formula based on the population of the municipality and the number of currently issued licenses.  Once the municipality has issued its full quota of licenses, it cannot issue any more.  Wisconsin State Assembly Bill 612 would change that in two ways.

First, the bill creates the "Regional Transfer Option"—where a municipality can transfer up to three unused "Class B" licenses to neighboring communities.  This reduces the number of such licenses available to the transferring municipality and increases the number of licenses available to the receiving municipalities.  The bill states that the receiving municipality must pay an "issuance fee" to the transferring municipality.  This fee is established by the transferring municipality and, per the bill, must be at least $10,000 per license.

In addition, the bill allows a municipality to designate a geographic area, subject to certain parameters, as a "premier economic development district."  The municipality can issue up to two "Class B" licenses to be used within this district for an "economic development project" (that is, a project having a new construction assessed valuation increase of at least $20 million).  The municipality itself establishes the "issuance fee" for each such license, which fee cannot be less than $30,000.

The genesis of this bill relates to the proposed Titletown District by Lambeau Field.  Ashwaubenon has no "Class B" licenses available, and so this legislation increases the number of potential licenses available for future bars and restaurants in the district.  If Aaron Rodgers ever gets hurt, Packers fans will definitely need the additional drinking establishments.

Footnotes

1 Personally, I was impressed with the selection at local grocer's new growler gallery—as a lover of German beer, seeing a Gose‑style brew was much appreciated.

2 But some cities are not.  In Portland (Maine), Allagash Brewing Co. would like to sell prepackaged snacks in its taproom.  The zoning authorities are asserting that the sale of these snacks is not allowed under their zoning ordinances.  The moral of this story is that a simple bag of peanuts can trigger a zoning violation.

3 For an explanation of the difference between a brewer and a brewpub, please read here.

4 Yes, there is a difference between a "Class B" license and a Class "B" license.  "Class B" licenses cover serving liquor, whereas Class "B" licenses are needed to sell draft beer.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Robert J. Heinrich
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions