WEST BEND — Wisconsin bars and restaurants are now allowed to serve cocktails and wine to go after Gov. Tony Evers signed the relevant bill into law Friday.
The bill went into effect after it was published Sunday.
The bill won bipartisan approval in the state Legislature. It allows mixed drinks and glasses of wine to be sold to go as long as they have tamper-evident seals.
“We’re very happy with the bill, and thank Gov. Evers for signing the bill,” said Tavern League of Wisconsin Executive Director Pete Madland.
The Tavern League stated that a tamper-evident seal could be a piece of tape over the lid of a plastic to-go container. A seal must have no perforations and prevent access to the contents of the container without evidence of tampering.
Drinks must be sold for pickup only. The bill does not apply to delivery. More than 30 states have similar laws.
In West Bend, customers can already find some businesses that offer to-go cocktails.
“We’re already doing it,” said Jeremy Hahn, who owns The Garden Lounge, The Boardroom and The Inferno. “It was effective immediately once the governor signed it.”
Under Wisconsin Assembly Bill 32, businesses with a Class B license can sell liquor by the glass and not in the original package either for consumption on-premise or off-premise with a tamper-evident seal. The act also allows wineries to sell wine to go, also with a tamper-evident seal. It does not authorize the sale of fermented malt beverages or intoxicating liquor other than wine.
Class B license holders are also able to sell liquor in its original package or container to go, which was allowed prior to the bill.
The Wisconsin Grocers Association and the Wisconsin Public Health Association were the only registered opponents to the measure. Supporters include groups representing the state’s tourism, hotel and lodging industries, bars and restaurants.
The city of Milwaukee wanted the bill to allow local governments to decide whether to permit to-go sales. But the bill permits the sales statewide, including after the pandemic is over. Democrats had tried in committee to amend the measure to have it end once the national state of emergency is lifted.
Madland said business declined up to 70% for some bars and restaurants during the pandemic. 'The drinks togo thing was actually the result of demand by customers,' he said. 'The public response to our closedown has really been tremendous, the support they’ve shown.'
Supporters have been pushing for the law for a year, saying it offers another way for bars and restaurants suffering from drops in attendance to get by during the pandemic.
Contributing: Associated Press