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Wisconsin Bill 290 - homebrew related!

Howdy everyone, this is especially salient for Wisconsin homebrewers, but I think relevant to all.
I’ll spare you with a back-story and just point to here to get caught up: … o-madison/

Here is an update on Wisconsin AB 290:


  1. An amendment has been added to the bill: … /aa1_ab290
    This amendment states that shops would be required to obtain an “operators license”. These are NOT the liquor license attributed to bottle shops, liquor stores, etc. This is a server license required by any individual serving alcohol to the public. We contacted the municipal office in West Allis to confirm this and for our area, this license would costs us $97 per individual, for two years.

Some info about an operators (or bartenders) license:
Does the licensee or the agent always have to be at the premises when it is open for business?

No. There must be one or more licensed operators in charge of the premises. An operator’s license is often called a “bartender’s license.” Not all bartenders must hold operator’s licenses, but there must be at least one licensed operator in charge of the premises. If the premise is large, with several serving areas, bar areas, etc., licensed operators must be in charge of each discrete area, in order to supervise and direct unlicensed persons who may be selling/serving.

How do I qualify for an operator’s license?

To qualify for an operator’s license, you must
* be at least 18 years old,
* meet criminal record requirements, and
* have completed a responsible beverage server course. Call your local Vocational, Technical and Adult Education (VTAE) school, or see “Training” on the Department of Revenue web site.

The last requirement can be waived if it is a renewal application or if you held an alcohol beverage license, including an operator’s license, within the past two years. The municipality may issue you a provisional operator’s license if you are enrolled in a responsible beverage server course when you apply. An operator’s license is only good in the municipality that issues it. For instance, if you are issued an operator’s license in the City of Milwaukee, you may not use it in a suburban municipality, like Franklin.[/i]
What are responsible beverage server training courses?

These courses are required to hold alcohol beverage licenses, with some exceptions. They cover alcohol beverage laws, signs of intoxication, safe serving of alcohol beverages, etc. These courses are most often offered by local technical colleges. For further information, contact your local Vocational, Technical and Adult Education (VTAE) school.

Not all responsible beverage server courses are taught by technical colleges. Other courses (see “Training” on the Department of Revenue web site) may be substituted for those taught at VTAE schools, as long as they have been approved by the Department of Revenue or the educational approval board. Make sure of this approval before enrolling in a responsible server course not offered at a VTAE school.

This is standard practice for all servers, and is something we already do in MN for beer events. I think this amendment actually makes the bill stronger, and easier to “copy paste” to other states.

  1. The bill passed unanimously 7-0 through the assembly committee! So now it goes before the entire assembly for vote. Rep Kooyenga is very optimistic that it will pass there. If it passes there, it goes onto the Senate for vote. When this happens, I will be on hand to testify.

Here’s an email from Rep Kooyenga:

Jake - It will probably be voted in the Assembly next week. I still have not heard a timeline for a Senate hearing and it is probably as safe bet it will not be next week. Here is the link you can check to see if there is something scheduled periodically: ... use=Senate


The long story short Northern Brewer has pursued their agenda to serve beer at their store in Milwaukee. Great! but this bill will torpedo home brewers. The Wisconsin Home brewers who have been working for more than 7 months crafting legislation that would allow us to serve at beer fests and outside our home. Enter Mr. Jake K a member of the AHA governing committee promoting bill 290, this helps Northern Brewer his employer but sticks a big road block to home brewers serving at beer fests. I wonder if he really cares about homebrewers other than their money that they spend at Northern Brewer.

I’m greatly disappointed in Mr. Keeler’s actions, He is a member of the Wisconsin Hombrewers Assocation web group and we were never notified of their pending legislation.

I wonder where Mr. Keeler’s allgiences lies.

Marc OBrien AHA member since 2005

While I am not from WI, this is a little disconcerting. I have been teaching government advocacy and grassroots lobbying for almost 12 years and it seems strange that individual homebrewer and “business” concerns in this issue were separated. We are always, always stronger in numbers. As sad as it is, the truth is it is easier today to protect businesses than it is to protect the individual. I have never met Jake beyond being an avid fan Brewing TV, yet I feel he is passionate about homebrewing and our community. I don’t really believe anyone is throwing homebrewers under the bus, most likely someone is taking advance from people trying to protect their own interest. I give to the AHA, I truly hope they will step in and help protect WI homebrews. A slight against one is a slight against all.

I also hope that Jake will take the time to respond to Boulderbrewers concerns and outline what is planned to help protect individual homebrewers in WI regarding this issue.

The first we heard of this was from Gary Glass like 2 days ago, when it was up for a vote. Maybe we should look at the AHA under the same scrutiny. Why did we not hear this from the AHA! Hey wait Gary is a constant poster to the WIHBA! maybe Gary was blind (because of NB!) to this but alot of homebrewers trust the AHA and give alot of money to them but maybe NB has more money to blind Gary’s eye.

I think this will be deleted before to many get to see this

I’m happy to field questions, and clarify NB’s actions in regards to WI AB 290.

  1. NB and the AHA heard about the public hearing only days before it actually took place. So, we heard roughly the same time everyone else did.

  2. NB decided to remove our business concerns from the WIHBA efforts on homebrewers’ concerns 6/7 months ago because we did not want to railroad the efforts. This was something that Oregon had to do in getting their recent legislation passed. Our two issues were:
    A. Homebrew shops cannot currently brew on the premise of our shop - homebrew/wine can only be made in one’s residence. We sought to overturn this will bill 290 to simply allow us to brew homebrewed beer and wine on premise for research, development and educational purposes.
    B. We cannot serve samples of any kind on our premise. For the record, this was never “legal” and if homebrew shops were doing it they were operating in legally grey area at best. Through bill 290 we sought to get legal permission to serve samples for educational purpose.

  3. Rep. Kooyenga approached us to help draft the bill and we moved on the effort as quickly as we could.

  4. The bill was introduced to committee last week with strong support, and it was then proposed to add an amendment requiring shops to acquire Operator Licenses for those employees who’d be serving the samples. These are often refereed to as “Bartender” licenses, and that is essentially all they are. Very simple, very reasonable. It would cost us, in West Allis, $97 for a two year license per employee.

This is something we already do in MN when throwing events and beer is served of any kind. It is required for our liquor liability insurance to be valid. Anyone serving alcohol of any kind should be properly trained, in the eyes of the law, to check ID’s, verify age, and recognize over-consumption. This license is merely a way of ensuring that serving of samples is done in a responsible way.

  1. The AHA is only involved in this effort as much as the fact that I am a member of the Governing Committee. I have been in touch with Gary Glass the entire time, and have deferred to him on judgment and opinion when taking action.

  2. I, and NB, truly think this bill is strong, makes sense for all homebrew shops, and will put any question as to serving samples and brewing on premise in the past. I do not think this will adversely affect homebrewers/WIHBA efforts in anyway, in fact I think it will help.

The WI government sees the economic vitality of the the homebrewing industry and customer base right now. They do not want to get in the way of it, and are looking to help in over-turning these interpretations and making sure homebrewing is once again vibrant and uninhibited in Wisconsin.

Further, I think this legislation, much like the legislation in Oregon, can be a blueprint for other states looking to protect homebrewers, and homebrew shops.

We, as an industry and hobby, have been operating in some grey legal space for a long time. Some places are better the other to be sure, but the days of flying under the government’s (Federal, State, county or municipal) are over. Homebrewing is just too big to go unnoticed. Being that, I think it is better to get proactive about working with these entities to find practical solutions.

  1. NB is committed to helping the WIHBA in their respective efforts, and the efforts of homebrewwers across this country. Sometimes we get distracted, busy and perhaps lose connection with these efforts…AB 290 admittedly may suffer from this. Regardless, we had every single shop and every single homebrewer in mind this entire time, and we will continue to do so moving forward.


[quote=“Boulderbrewer”]The first we heard of this was from Gary Glass like 2 days ago, when it was up for a vote. Maybe we should look at the AHA under the same scrutiny. Why did we not hear this from the AHA! Hey wait Gary is a constant poster to the WIHBA! maybe Gary was blind (because of NB!) to this but alot of homebrewers trust the AHA and give alot of money to them but maybe NB has more money to blind Gary’s eye.

I think this will be deleted before to many get to see this[/quote]

Marc, you’re making totally unjustified accusations. You owe Gary an apology.

Jake Keeler: “It was decided in the offices of NB that we would take up our business concerns separately from the homebrewer’s concerns to make sure one didn’t muddy the other’s chance of getting things changed.”

It would seem that you did just that. And bit the hand that feeds you in the process. Or am I getting the wrong impression?

@Tom - early on, we got the impression that the WIHBA was going to pursue their bill for homebrewers rights separate from the homebrew shop concerns, so I think it was a mutual conclusion that having separate bills was the best way to proceed.

When I was stating that the NB office decide to adopt a separate route, I was attempting to make clear that we didn’t want things like in-store sampling, or a business brewing on it’s premise damaging the chances of the homebrewers rights bill. Sorry if that got lost in the translation.

We have supported our fellow homebrewers efforts through the WIHBA, and will continue to do so in the future. I pledge to make every possible effort be present at any and all public hearings and/or votes on the bill that is being worked on by the WIHBA. And, if NB can assist in any other way, we are prepared to do so. For the record, I mentioned the other bill and the efforts of the WIHBA and gave it/them/us full support.

I’m sorry if I/NB hasn’t been on top of this as much as I/we should…you may have noticed we’re having some, cough cough, website issues…and we have to open a store in less of a month. I know, excuses, but please don’t take any absence of NB’s presence, input or support as an indication that we don’t care.



I’ll add: I’ve put an email into Rep. Kooyenga to get some further details about how the operators license might affect homebrewers/events/etc. The amendment was introduced as a way to protect the bill, so all intentions so far have been to help homebrew shops and homebrewers. There may be some things being glossed over and missed, so I’m committed to follow up with Rep. Kooyenga next week via phone, and others involved with this bill, to make sure it does not have components that may hinder homebrewers and/or home brew shops down the line.

I don’t personally think 290 will torpedo a homebrewers’ bill of rights, in fact I can see where it might have a positive effect inasmuch as you’re getting the ball rolling and letting the legislators “chew on things in smaller bites”. It would be good if you could help the homebrewers avoid the licensing requirement for the small contests/ club events. I’m sure NB would benefit from that legislation as well.

Thanks for clarifying your position, good luck to all homebrewers in WI. I’d think with the tradition of brewing in the state, that making a case for modern sensible homebrewing laws would be a simple matter.

I’ll copy this to the other place where the discussion was taking place.

Your right Denny I owe Gary an apology, I apologize to Gary Glass as he stated to the WIHBA that he found out at the last moment he. I am sorry Gary. My comments were out of line.

Hey guys/gals, I’m glad to see we’re hashing this out, and giving it the proper constructive discussion it deserves.

On Friday, I sent an email to Rep. Kooyenga expressing some of our concerns about the operators license warranting a class A or B liquor licenses for homebrew shops. I also brought up the concern about this having a ripple affect on homebrewers themselves in regards to serving their beer.

He replied to me stating that they will look into any and all adverse affects this amendment to AB 290 may cause, and expressed very clearly that taking the amendment OFF the bill was an option on the table. The amendment was added as a component to help the bill pass, not punish shops or homebrewers in any way. I’ll keep you all posted as to what they determine.

I do think, that without having any restrictions to sample sizes and/or frequency in a shop means there needs to be some kind of guarantee that sampling will not get out of hand, and, patrons do not become intoxicated. So, I could see an amendment replacing this one that regulates amount and frequency of sampling, which seems reasonable to me.

I will also add that most liquor liability polices will not cover a claim unless the businesses employees have acquired the proper serving licenses for a particular state/county. This is something that will need to be explored further.

Two questions I like to get feedback on:

  1. If further amendments would allow shops to obtain operators licenses without having to obtain class A or B liquor licenses, would this make the current amendment more palatable? I know this still leaves open questions to how licensing may affect homebrewers, but I’d like to get opinions.
  2. If the current amendment is striked, and they propose a sample size limit, and limits to frequency of sampling, would this be acceptable to shop owners?

Please pass this along to the WIHBA listserve/google group (I still need to be added!)


Your store manager (milwaukee) is on there, heck even your lawyer was on there. Wonder how the lawyer got there without an invite. I think you could show up, tell them Marc said it was OK for you to post. :wink:

What is the position of the majority leadership in the assembly?

The author of the bill is a freshman legislator. He is though a member of the majority party. Yet, no members of leadership have co-sponsored the bill.

In fact, of 132 members of the legislature only Three senators and eight representatives have co-sponsored it.

The assembly speaker is running for the U.S. Senate. No way is he going to bring any more controversy to his leadership.

The bill will never get to the floor for a vote.

So, what ya going to brew next?

Boulder - I know! What the heck?! I think it’s just an oversight and NB does have some people on the list/group, so I’m kept abreast of what’s being discussed. Never the less, I’d like to have a more direct contact. I’ll get it hashed out before the end of this week.

Surly - your points could indeed be spot on. You never know how something will play out once it gets more"political" as it climbs the ladder. I’m optimistic though, as it’s seeing strong support now, and if there was ever a time to get a “pro-small business” bill passed, now is that time.

Similar sentiments and statements were made about the Pint Law in MN, and it flew through with unanimous support despite strong opposition and criticism early on.

Time will tell.

I’d hardly think someone would get beat up politically over a bill like this. Now who trims your shrubs, thats another matter. I do my own lawn work just in case I ever decide to run for office.

If Wisconsin is truly “open for business” then I would think the controlling party would know what their Governor wants and get this through. Then again, if the Koch brothers could get an interest in Northern Brewer it might help. :mrgreen:

Good news, the bill was passed by a voice vote through the Assembly yesterday.
Also, the amendment requiring shops to obtain an operators license was fixed/adjusted to reflect the fact that shops DO NOT need to obtain an additional liquor license of any kind to qualify for the operators license.

In essence, this means shops will only have to obtain the simple “bartenders” or operators license for employees whom will serve or oversee giving out samples at said shop.

For more information:

The bill now goes to the Senate. It may require a hearing prior to going to the Senate floor, or it may go straight to the floor for a vote. Since it passed on a voice vote through the Assembly, and no one has registered opposition, it may go straight to vote.


I still have mixed feelings about this… now shop owners have to be licensed bartenders to serve… hmm…

As opposed to not serving at all? May not be ideal, but it sounds a hell of a lot better.

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