Wedding barn operators sue Wisconsin leaders over liquor licenses

NOW: Wedding barn operators sue Wisconsin leaders over liquor licenses

Jean Bahn says a couple years ago, her and her husband Bob took cows out of their barn, to make room for a wedding.

“One of our daughters wanted to get married in a barn, so that’s where this all initially started, in getting it ready to hold her wedding.”

They still run a full farm, but they also hosted 14 weddings in 2018 at Farmview Event Barn.

“Younger people have a different idea for themselves for big celebrations," Bahn said. "Not so formal.”

But some lawmakers want to treat these barns like a public venue, and force them to apply for a liquor license.

“They’re not required to have opening hours or closing ours," State Rep. Rob Swearingen said. "They’re not required to have licensed bartenders. Alcohol needs to be regulated in the state of Wisconsin.”

Before leaving office, former Attorney General Brad Schimel said barns should be treated like public venues.

Bahn sued Gov Tony Evers and new Attorney General Josh Kaul, asking them make a formal ruling allowing them to continue. She partnered with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which says requiring a liquor license for rented venues allowing alcohol would bring problems beyond weddings.

“Things like hotels, Airbnb's, vacation rental cottages," Lucas Vebber said. "Really the reach would be limitless, and it would wreak havoc on our business community and our tourism in the state.”

Bahn wants new Attorney General Josh Kaul to make a formal ruling allowing her to continue.

“Maybe one Saturday afternoon until midnight a couple decides to have a celebration with their friends, it’s not public.”

Bahn says hopes the state can clear up the laws by wedding season.

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