winery closing hours Fisher King Winery (copy)

A wall of wine in the tasting room at Fisher King Winery in Verona holds dozens of bottles of wine. The winery is one of dozens statewide that is lobbying for changes to state closing laws. 

Republican lawmakers in the state Assembly and Senate are circulating a bill that would extend the opening hours of wineries in Wisconsin. 

The bill would extend mandated closing time at wineries from 9 p.m. until midnight "in order to further facilitate the ability of wineries to hold events such as a wedding," according to the proposal. The bill would still allow local governments to restrict wineries' closing hours by ordinance.

Wineries statewide have lobbied for the change, arguing that the closing restriction is hampering their business and is anti-free market.

The Tavern League of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association have opposed extending winery hours, arguing that the change would be unfair to taverns and disrupt how alcohol, beer and wine has been regulated in the state for decades.  

The Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a free-market conservative advocacy group, supports the proposal. It has argued that the restrictions against wineries are bad for small business and jobs in the state. 

According the Wisconsin Winery Association, the industry brought in nearly $50 million in direct spending to Wisconsin in 2015 through tourists visiting wineries. Wisconsin wineries also bring in $100 million each year to hotels or other restaurants, according to a study by Michigan State University that the group commissioned.

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Grape growers and wineries combined accounted for 2,000 new jobs created in the state in 2015, according to the bill. 

The proposal is sponsored by Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, Rep. Gary Tauchen, R-Bonduel, and Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan. 

The deadline for lawmakers to sign on to the proposal is June 9. 

 

Katelyn Ferral is The Cap Times' public affairs and investigative reporter. She joined the paper in 2015 and previously covered the energy industry for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. She's also covered state politics and government in North Carolina.