An amendment tacked onto a bill to allow wineries to remain open until midnight could ban most forms of tailgating at Wisconsin sporting events, according to a memo released by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL).

“What major policy problem the proposed amendment is designed to solve is unclear,” the memo said. “But what is clear – whether intended or unintended – is that the amendment would negatively impact Wisconsin’s long-standing tradition of tailgating (or at least your ability to have a beer with your brat).”

The bill has passed the state Assembly but now its fate is uncertain as the Senate considers fixing the amendment, requiring the whole bill to go back to the Assembly. Republicans in the state Assembly have claimed that they are done for the year. Killing the bill would also mean wineries would still be prohibited from staying open past 9:00 PM, preventing them from being able to host weddings and other events that continue later into the evening.

The purpose of the amendment was to try to end competition to taverns from wedding receptions held in barns that are not licensed liquor establishments. However, in prohibiting unlicensed venues from allowing alcohol to be served, the amendment to the winery bill could end the Wisconsin tradition of tailgating at sporting events.

“To put it another way, under this amendment a business or homeowner would need an expensive license in order to charge someone to use their property to consume alcohol,” the memo says. “This is also commonly known as ‘tailgating.'”

The memo explains that while there has been an exception for stadium parking lots, under the amendment to the winery bill (AB 433), homes near stadiums that charge for parking and allow tailgating could suddenly be required to acquire liquor licenses. This would have a drastic effect on tailgating near Lambeau Field.

However, another change in wording in the statute, from “premises” to “property,” could also eliminate the stadium exemption at other locations, including Miller Park in Milwaukee, home of the Milwaukee Brewers:

The stadium exception simply says that the prohibition in the first sentence does not apply to “stadiums.” But the Miller Park parking lot is not a “stadium.” You don’t need a ticket to the stadium in order to be in the parking lot. Thus, the stadium exception likely does not apply to the parking lot, and if it does not then changing the word “premises” to the word “property” has a substantial effect. It means no beer with your brat at your Miller Park tailgate. (Emphasis in the original.)

At the very least, the WILL memo points out that the change in wording could mean the end of tailgating at Lambeau Field:

The situation is clearer with Lambeau Field. According to its most recent license application, the Packers have a license that covers Lambeau field only. It does not cover the Lambeau parking lots. Since the license does not include the parking lots (not just those of the adjacent landowners that we discussed above), the amendment could mean the end of tailgating at Lambeau. (Emphasis in the original.)

The Wisconsin Tavern League is disputing WILL’s interpretation of the law. Tavern League lobbyist Scott Stenger told the Wisconsin State Journal that WILL’s interpretation is “ridiculous, childish and sad.”

“Their criticism is some fantasy idea that the Legislature in the waning days is going to prohibit tailgating at Packer and Brewer games,” Stenger told the State Journal. “The bill doesn’t do any of that.”

However, a Wisconsin Legislative Council (WLC) memo seems to confirm WILL’s interpretation of the law. The WLC memo states, “that the prohibition applies to all property that is open to the public, and not only licensed premises.”

Tha means, according to the WLC memo:

Specifically, if an owner or person in charge of property that is not a public place receives payment for the temporary use of the property by another person for a specific event, the substitute amendment prohibits that owner or person from permitting the consumption of alcohol beverages on the property, unless the person has an appropriate retail license or permit. A likely practical effect of that change appears to be that private events such as weddings, fundraisers, and parties could not include alcohol beverage consumption if they are held on rented, unlicensed premises.

Responding the to WLC memo, CJ Szafir, the Executive Vice President of WILL, said, “We are pleased the attorneys at the non-partisan Legislative Council agree with our conclusion that this bill hurts people’s ability to tailgate.”

The amendment was offered by state Rep. Tyler Vorpagel (R-Plymouth), who was also an author of the infamous “liquor czar” bill being pushed by the Tavern League and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).

Click here to read commentary on the possible ban on tailgating from Friday’s RightWisconsin Daily Update.