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liquor czar bill

A brewer checks the temperature of the mash during the beer-making process. Craft brewers in Wisconsin say they will be hurt by a bill being considered by the state Senate. 

A state Senate committee cancelled a vote they had scheduled Friday on a bill to establish a new government office to oversee enforcement of Wisconsin's liquor laws. 

The bill would have also create new type of liquor permit to suit a Kohler resort  distillery venture. 

Whether a vote would actually take place on controversial Senate Bill 801, also known as the "liquor czar" bill, was in dispute Thursday following a public hearing where dozens of local brewery, winery and distillery owners testified against it, arguing the measure would be detrimental to their businesses. 

As of late Thursday night, a paper ballot vote was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. with ballots due by 10:30 a.m., according to the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Commerce, and Local Government's website.

Deb Carey, president and founder of the New Glarus Brewing Company, said that after being told the bill was killed in committee, the Wisconsin Brewers Guild was told Thursday night that the vote would proceed. 

But Friday morning, Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, said in a statement he was cancelling the vote and instead called for the Legislature to study the state's alcohol laws. 

“At yesterday’s public hearing on Senate Bill 801, our committee heard from many Wisconsin small business owners who raised concerns with our current alcohol beverage regulation system," he said. "Many have been negatively impacted by the antiquated, confusing nature of Ch.125 laws and it is clear that there are larger issues with how we regulate and enforce alcoholic beverages here in Wisconsin that need to be addressed."

Sen. Pat Testin, R-Stevens Point, said in a statement Thursday night that he would have voted against the bill, echoing concerns from alcohol manufacturers in his district. He said there are several breweries and distillers in his district that significantly contribute to the region's economy and have concerns about it. 

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"As soon as this legislation was introduced, I reached out to brewers, distillers and winery owners in my district to get their input. I heard their concerns, and as a result, I cannot vote for this bill as it's currently written."  

The cancellation of the vote means the bill is essentially dead. It had not gained traction in the Assembly, which has a full schedule of bills up for consideration before it is set to adjourn later this month. 

This story has been updated to reflect a cancellation of the vote. 

 

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.