MADISON, Wis. — Liquor
store giant Total Wine & More got a total win in Wisconsin on
Monday, with the signing of a bill that will allow some liquor
stores to sell unlimited quantities of whiskey, gin, brandy and
other distilled spirits during a single transaction.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers signed the Republican-sponsored bill into
law following years of lobbying by Maryland-based Total Wine to make
the change. Under the new law, a prohibition on Class B liquor
license holders such as Total Wine from selling more than four
liters of hard alcohol at a time will be lifted. There had been no
such limits on beer or wine sales and supporters argued the change
was about equity and convenience for the shopper.
"It is a common sense reform that will provide business owners more
opportunity to enhance customer experience," Republican state Sen.
Dale Kooyenga, whose district includes a Total Wine store in
Brookfield, said in written testimony supporting the measure he
introduced earlier this year.
From 2016 through 2018, Total Wine spent more than $270,000 lobbying
the Legislature, primarily to make the change Evers signed into law
on Monday. Totals spent on lobbying so far this year were not yet
Over the same period, Total Wine co-owners Robert and David Trone
gave $50,500 to members of the Legislature or partisan campaign
efforts, with $43,000 going to Republicans and the rest to
Evers did not get any donations, according to the Wisconsin
Democracy Campaign database that tracks political contributions. But
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos got $1,000 and Senate Majority Leader
Scott Fitzgerald received $2,000. The committees they oversee to get
Republicans elected to the Legislature received $24,500 since 2016.
Kooyenga got $500.
Most retail stores have a Class A license, which does not allow for
on-site consumption of alcohol except for very small samples. They
have no limits on how much hard alcohol can be sold at a time.
That wasn't the case for Class B license holders, which are usually
bars and restaurants. But some liquor stores, including Total Wine,
that offer classes or other events where larger amounts of alcohol
are consumed on premises, hold a Class B license.
More retail stores like HyVee and Metro Market are obtaining Class B
licenses so they can offer in-store classroom experiences and larger
tastings, said state Rep. Tyler Vorpagel, a Republican from
Plymouth, in support of the bill he co-sponsored.
Total Wine's lobbyist Amy Boyer told the Legislature in written
testimony that its younger customers, particularly those in
Generation X and millennials, are seeking "experiential retailing"
and want to learn more about alcohol through expanded taste testings
Getting the law change is a "victory for convenience," said Total
Wine spokesman Edward Cooper.
"For folks who wanted to come and stock up, which for most of our
customers they come to us to do a big shop, there was a certain
amount of inconvenience" under the old law, he said.
Total Wine began in 1991 in Delaware and currently has 197 stores in
23 states, according to its website. A typical store offers about
8,000 wines, 2,500 kinds of beer and 3,000 distilled spirits. In
Wisconsin it has stores in Brookfield, Madison and Greenfield.
Total Wine did not immediately respond to a request for comment in
reaction to the bill being signed into law.
The law change was also supported by the Tavern League of Wisconsin,
which represents bars, the Wisconsin Grocers Association and the
Wisconsin Restaurant Association.