Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Dan Holtz

Don't mess with tailgating in Wisconsin

Legislators aren’t often accused of having common sense.

But in this case, they got it right.

A widely supported legislative proposal to extend winery hours appears to be dead this legislative session in Madison after a conservative group raised concerns that it could block tailgate parties around Lambeau Field in Green Bay and Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

The bill would have extended winery hours from 9 p.m. to midnight, subject to local regulations.

An amendment was added, supported by the Tavern League of Wisconsin, that would require private properties that rent space for parties to obtain a liquor license in order to allow alcohol consumption.

The bill passed the Assembly and only needed the state Senate’s approval.

But the Wisconisn Institute for Law and Liberty indicated the bill could make it significantly harder for people to enjoy Wisconsin’s long-standing tradition of tailgating at sports events.

The group said the bill could apply to private property owners who charge Packers or Badgers fans for parking on their property, which would bar tailgating on their property without a liquor license.

“What is clear — whether intended or unintended — is that the amendment would negatively impact peoples’ ability to enjoy a beer at their tailgate before a Packers, Badgers or Brewers game,” WILL executive vice president CJ Szafir said.

As a result of those concerns, two northeastern Wisconsin legislators said the Senate will not take up the bill and it would have to be revisited in the next legislative session.

That’s a smart move.

Messing with sports tailgating in Wisconsin is like abolishing Friday night fish fries or prohibiting the sales of deep-fried cheese curds at county fairs.

Tavern League lobbyist Scott Stenger criticized WILL’s objections to the bill as “ridiculous, childish and sad.”

Stenger said the bill wouldn’t prohibit tailgating at Packers or Brewers games.

But a Legislative Council memo indicated the tailgating issue as it pertains to the bill is unclear.

Because of the clarity of the matter, it’s better that the bill be reworked to make sure an iconic Wisconsin tradition is not jeopardized.

The Legislature is getting this one right. 


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