In Bars & Clubs

Wisconsin craft brewers are struggling and need support from Madison.

No, you can't get beer delivered, but brewers are hoping Madison will help

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Lately, folks have been wondering if they can get beer from local craft brewers delivered to their homes so that they can help support struggling hometown brewers during the coronavirus-inspired shutdowns.

The short answer is no.

State statutes say that sales of alcohol directly to consumers in Wisconsin must take place at a licensed location – a bar or liquor store, for example – in a face-to-face transaction.

That's why, for example, Lakefront can't drop a case of Riverwest Stein at your door and why grocery delivery services can't, either.

Some would like to see that law changed, even if only temporarily during these challenging times that may result in breweries, as well as bars, restaurants and others going under due to restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-10.

"I think the government should do everything in its power to help small businesses in this unprecedented time including changing the laws for both breweries and taverns or restaurants to be able to delivery alcohol or to be able to take online orders for alcohol," says Andy Gehl, co-founder of Third Space Brewing.

"Small businesses like ours and our restaurant/tavern partners have not seen any relief yet from officials and many of us will be facing dire prospects in the future if that relief does not come soon. Deliveries/online ordering is one small piece of what can and should be done but everything helps right now."

Some other states' laws allow beer deliveries, and still other states have liquor control boards that have the authority to make rules changes. In Wisconsin, the Legislature and Governor must make the change.

Last year, Rep. Gary Tauchen, R-Bonduel, proposed legislation called the Wisconsin Home Delivery Act (LRB 1762/1), which would've loosened the restrictions.

In to a co-sponsorship memorandum, Tauchen proposed that, "Retailers, including establishments such as grocery stores or restaurants, could deliver alcohol directly or use independent third party delivery services. Deliveries could only be made during the hours in which the state currently allows alcohol to be sold. The alcohol has to be paid for at the time of the delivery."

The proposal, however, did not receive a public hearing, and now more than ever, it's hindering the survival of brewers in Wisconsin, says MobCraft's Henry Schwartz.

"And it is a little bit deeper than breweries," he tells me. "I think both restaurants and bars should be able to deliver alcohol to people who are of age.

"In a time where we have to stay closed for public safety reasons, that revenue might be the difference for a lot of people to stay open. We are going to lose about 80 percent of our revenue due to this so anything that we can do to keep our employees working is super important!"

Like Gehl, Schwartz would like to see some action in Madison to bring relief.

"I would love it if the government would reopen their legislative session and change the laws so bars, liquor stores, restaurants, and manufacturers could deliver direct to consumer," he says.

Right now, breweries are offering beer for pickup but if a full shelter at home lockdown comes to Wisconsin even that will no longer be an option, leaving the potential for delivery the sole tool at their disposal ... if the Legislature and Governor act.

"Rep. Tauchen remains fully willing and committed to working with stakeholder groups and interested leaders to help pass these important pieces of legislation," says aide Craig Arrowood.

"He remains open to discussion on any novel approaches to ease the burden on restaurants, bars and the general public. If these bills receive no hearing this current session he will reintroduce them next session. "

Gov. Tony Evers has not replied to a request for comment by press time. Stay tuned for updates as they become available.


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