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Time running out for bill to extend bar time for DNC

NOW: Time running out for bill to extend bar time for DNC

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Lawmakers considered a bill to extend bar close time in the state until 4 a.m. for the duration of the 2020 DNC in Milwaukee during a public hearing Wednesday.

While the DNC will put a spotlight on democrats, both parties in the State Capitol recognize the economic benefits of the event.

“Money is not red or blue, it’s green,” said Rep. Rob Swearingen (R – Rhinelander), the bill’s author and chair of the Assembly Committee on State Affairs. “I want everyone in the Milwaukee area or across the state to spend their green money so we can all thrive on what they’re bringing.”

The proposal has bipartisan support as well as the support from the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, the Tavern League of Wisconsin and the City of Milwaukee.

But the bill faces uncertainty because of a provision that requires businesses like so-called wedding barns to obtain permits that are similar to licenses that bars and restaurants have to sell liquor.

The original version of the bill did not have that provision – but Rep. Swearingen built his own bill to add the wedding barn provision. Swearingen is a former head of the Tavern League and believes that regulation is needed for patron safety.

But owners of those businesses disagree.

“I’m not on a level playing field because I’m not even on the same field,” Jean Bahn, owner of Farmview Event Barn in Berlin told the committee in the public hearing. “I’m not open to the public, I’m not open seven days a week, I choose not to have a liquor license.”

Owners of restaurants, bars and other venues, however, believe businesses like wedding barns have an unfair advantage and should be regulated like they are.

“If a wedding barn or whatever that has a website and a phone number and they’re selling their business, their renting their business for people to have a wedding – if that’s not a public place then I don’t know what is,” Brian Boekenstedt, owner of Bella Vita Banquets in Kenosha, told CBS 58.

The committee votes on the bill Thursday, Feb. 13.

The clock is ticking for the legislation to get through. The Assembly wraps up its work for the year next week and the Senate is set to finish by the first week of March.

Governor Tony Evers has said in the past that he doesn’t believe businesses like wedding barns need similar regulation to what bars and restaurants go through, but he and other democrats want the extension for the 4 a.m. bar time during the DNC.

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