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Bill to ease liquor restrictions makes sense

A proposal to allow taverns and restaurants to sell cocktails and wine to-go is an overdue step to help these businesses survive and meet the needs of consumers.

The bill, drafted by Sen. Mary Felzkowski of Irma and Rep. David Steffen of Green Bay, would amend sections of Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 125 to allow bars and restaurants (anyone with a “Class B” liquor license) to “sell intoxicating liquor by the glass for consumption off the licensed premises. The bill would also extend to wineries to allow the sale of wine by the glass. The beverages would require a tamper-evident seal on them before they would be allowed to be removed from the premises.

Under the the proposal, someone picking up their togo order of Friday night fish fry, would also be able to pick up the brandy old fashioned made by their favorite bartender. Sales of wine and cocktails make up an important part of the revenue stream of many restaurants.

While businesses have had some success in switching to to-go models of selling meals to customers, the loss of revenue from bar sales has been significant. This hurts, not only the taverns and restaurants, but is felt up the supply chain through distributors and producers. Even as bars reopened last spring, overall customer base has remained well below normal as people have continued to avoid large crowds.

The ability for restaurants and taverns to sell take out cocktails and wine by the glass, will serve as a muchneeded boost and get people once again in the habit of frequenting these establishments for their entertainment and recreational needs. Beyond the current pandemic, the ability to sell to-go cocktails will also open new revenue streams into the post-pandemic future catering to a generation of state residents more comfortable staying-in with friends rather than going out.

While Sen. Felzkowski and Rep. Steffen should be commended for bringing the bill forward now, it would have had much greater benefit last spring and summer. This proposal is just the type of solution that the legislature should have been working on during the pandemic rather than taking an extended vacation.

Legislators should move quickly to sign onto this proposal and push for it to be passed into law. Wisconsin needs to move quickly to play catch-up on this and other measures to help businesses and industries which have been negatively impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.