WI barn wedding venues sue Evers' administration over liquor licenses

MENOMONIE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Two Wisconsin wedding venues are suing Gov. Tony Evers and his administration to prevent venues like theirs from needing liquor licenses to operate.

Tuesday a lawsuit was filed in Dunn County to determine whether the state's liquor laws apply to private barns that are rented for parties where alcohol is consumed but not sold.

One of the businesses listed on the lawsuit, Govin's Weddin' Barn in Menomonie, is arguing the venues are a private place and regulations that monitor alcohol sales shouldn't apply to private event locations where alcohol isn't actually sold.

However, tavern advocates say wedding venues should be subject to the same requirements if alcohol is consumed on their premises.

Co-owner of The Weddin’ Barn, John Govin, said if Wisconsin law requires the business to obtain a liquor license the business may be forced to close its doors.

Govin explained, “My greatest concern would be that we wouldn't be able to obtain a liquor license and it would virtually eliminate the possibility of this business going forward. Our township, at this point, has not granted liquor license."

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty has filed a lawsuit on behalf of The Weddin' Barn and Farmview Event Barn, LLC in Berlin arguing the business operates differently than a tavern.

Gavin said, “Taverns have regular operating hours, the door is open to anyone who wants to come in and belly up to the bar and purchase a drink. That's not our business model. Our business model is to share the weekend with a couple that's getting married.”

The Weddin’ Barn says it's a private event location and it's significantly different than a tavern in that it does not sell alcoholic beverages although it does request that couples have a licensed bartender to serve drinks.

“Right now we book these weddings a year to two years in advance and our couples are coming to us as we show the wedding venue and they need certainty and we, as business owners, need certainty,” he added.

Right now the Department of Revenue has not requested barn wedding venues obtain liquor licenses despite former Attorney General Brad Schimel arguing the venues should still be subject to state laws governing public places that serve alcohol.

The Tavern League, a group that represents bars and restaurants in Wisconsin, has voiced support for Schimel’s interpretation of the law.

The Weddin’ Barn says it believes the Tavern League sees it as competition and is trying to put up barriers to its growth.

WEAU did reach out to Evers' administration for comment but have yet to hear back.