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Wedding Barns Sue to Allow Alcohol at Private Functions
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 01/16/2019

The owners of two wedding barn venues in Wisconsin are suing the state government in hopes of removing a legal opinion by the Wisconsin Department of Justice that require such facilities to obtain a liquor license to serve alcohol. On Tuesday, The Weddin' Barn, owned by John and Julie Govin of Menomonie; and Farmview Event Barn LLC, owned by Bob and Jean Bahn near Berlin, filled a lawsuit against Gov. Tony Evers' administration in Dunn County Circuit Court.

They claim that wedding barns have been legally operating in Wisconsin for years without needing to obtain alcohol licenses. They say unlike bars, wedding barns do not sell alcohol and are not public places.

"If the state changes the way it interprets the liquor license law, it will put us out of business," said John Govin. "When we went through our zoning process my town chairman said, 'I will support your business venture, but don't ever ask me for a liquor license because I can't support a liquor license.'"

The moves comes two months after former Attorney General Brad Schimel issued an opinion stating that private events held in public spaces require liquor licenses.

The legislature twice considered proposals in 2018 targeting wedding barns for increased regulation, but fell short of a vote.

An attorney representing the two plaintiffs says its 'deeply disappointing' that special interests are trying to put such enterprises out of business. He says Governor Evers will have to decide where he stands on the issue and make a decision. A spokesperson for incoming AG Brad Kaul said their office is also reviewing the case.

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