Giovanni, assistant manager at Pink Mocha Cafe in
Hartland, makes a chai latte on Thursday afternoon. Pink
Mocha was denied a Class B liquor license this month
because the village is facing a shortage and voted to
reserve the last “regular” license for a different kind
Hannah Weikel/Freeman Staff
WAUWATOSA — City Clerk Carla Ledesma says Wauwatosa has
been on the edge — with only one remaining Class B
liquor license — for about a year now. The state imposed
limits on Class B liquor licenses more than two decades
ago, but the city has seen an uptick in new businesses
applying for the remaining licenses in the last few
Now, Wauwatosa and other municipalities facing similar
shortages must look for ways to obtain additional Class
B liquor licenses before new restaurants and bars start
taking their business elsewhere.
“The city on some level knew this was coming for quite
some time,” Ledesma said, “and although you knew the
number was dwindling, it became a situation that there
weren’t many left and we really need to start getting
There are several options for municipalities running low
on liquor licenses, which allow the sale of wine and
liquor, and Ledesma said Wauwatosa has been looking into
all of them.
First, communities facing a Class B shortage have the
option of buying unused licenses from neighboring or
nearby communities that have a surplus, according to
Ledesma said Wauwatosa has reached out to Milwaukee and
West Allis to see if either might be willing to part
with a few Class B liquor licenses, but neither has
agreed to help.
Brookfield, Mayor Steve Ponto said there are still 10
Class B licenses, but city officials have already
started asking other communities to help fill the void
when Brookfield runs out. Still, Ponto said purchasing
liquor licenses from other municipalities is like a free
market because of the demand.
“They can charge as much as a municipality is willing to
pay,” Ponto said.
Town of Brookfield bought two Class B liquor licenses
from the Town of Lisbon last spring for $25,000 each,
said Brookfield Town Clerk Elisa Cappozzo.
Town of Brookfield has had a moratorium on liquor
licenses for a number of years, but with the development
of The Corners off Interstate 94 and the potential for a
cinema that sells liquor and food among other
developments in the area, the few remaining licenses
could soon go quickly.
Before the Town of Brookfield issues the two liquor
licenses from Lisbon, it will have to sell two Premier
Economic Development District (PEDD) liquor licenses it
acquired for $15,000 each, which can only be used within
the PEDD area. PEDD liquor licenses are another option
municipalities facing shortages are resorting to,
Municipalities can also get over-quota liquor licenses
for full-service restaurants with more than 300 seats or
hotels with more than 60 rooms.
Mocha Cafe in Hartland was denied the village’s last
“regular” Class B liquor license earlier this month.
Owner Heidi Nugent says she plans to reapply for the
remaining license after the Village Board election in
Hannah Weikel/Freeman Staff
When an existing bar or restaurant closes, its liquor
license goes back into the pot and can be reissued to
was the case in Hartland when the Village Board
unanimously voted to revoke JC Bogar’s liquor license
last month after its owner announced it would close.
That license is now up for grabs and is the village’s
last “regular” Class B license that costs $500 upfront
and another $500 every year it’s renewed.
Mocha Cafe, an established breakfast and lunch business
in Hartland, immediately applied for the license, but
denied by the Village Board last week, which chose
instead to reserve it for an establishment that plans to
stay open later and serve a wider selection of booze.
village also has three “reserve” Class B liquor licenses
available for $10,000 upfront and $500 every year it’s
renewed, but Pink Mocha Cafe owner Heidi Nugent said she
doesn’t think it’s fair that the village withheld the
not going to spend $10,000 on a liquor license, being a
small cafe and wanting to have growth,” Nugent told The
Freeman last week. “I’m angered by this because they’re
telling me you can’t have the $500 license, but you can
purchase the $10,000 license.”
order coffee and espresso drinks at Pink Mocha Cafe in
Hartland Thursday afternoon.
Hannah Weikel/Freeman Staff
Wisconsin adopted the quota system in 1997, which allows
municipalities a certain number of licenses based on a
formula. Communities with large populations and few
existing liquor licenses were allotted the most, based
on the formula.
municipality can request an additional license from the
state Department of Revenue every time the population
grows by 500 people, but is otherwise stuck with the
State liquor license laws have become more flexible —
allowing for some options when communities run out —
since the quota system was implemented, but tavern and
bar lobbyists have fought any legislation that loosens
restrictions too much, said Pete Madland, executive
director of the Tavern League of Wisconsin.
have to understand that we’re dealing with alcohol,
we’re not dealing with ice cream,” Madland said.
“Society and government has deemed over the years that
this has to be very, very regulated.”
Still, he said the Tavern League’s opposition to
additional licenses is mostly about business.
those who are already in the business know that liquor
licenses have value,” Madland said. “If we issue more
licenses, the value of the existing licenses goes down.”
Madland said Wisconsin has the third most liquor
licenses per capita compared to other states. He said
Wisconsin is known for its drinking culture, but people
living here just keep wanting more outlets for alcohol.
you want to get a drink in Wisconsin, it’s not very
difficult,” he said.
State Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, who has fought
for more Class B liquor licenses as communities in his
district face shortages, did not respond to a request
for comment before deadline.
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