Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

The Assembly State Affairs Committee has amended a bill that would expand bar hours for the Democratic National Convention, removing provisions that would’ve established a permit process for wedding barns.

The amendment also pulled from the bill a section changing the hours that wineries can operate.

The bill’s author, Rep. Rob Swearingen, R-Rhinelander, said he decided to pull the winery provision after testimony at Wednesday’s public hearing that he called “borderline insulting and a waste of the committee’s time.” While looking at that provision, he decided to pull the wedding barn language, too.

“I realize the private event issue was difficult in this bill,” Swearingen said. “But I also realize we had to have that discussion. Because we’re still talking about the safety of the public.”

The original AB 869 would, among other things: allow municipalities to permit or deny a restaurant or bar’s request to stay open until 4 a.m. from July 13 to July 17; authorize the Department of Revenue to issue retail liquor licenses to racetrack grounds; allow wineries to expand operating hours from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m.; close a loophole where a brewery could sell beer at all hours without being subject to liquor license limitations and establish a permit process for private venue events, so-called “wedding barns,” with alcohol on the premises.

The provisions on winery hours and wedding barns were the only ones pulled from the bill.

In Wednesday’s public hearing, the wedding barn section drew questions and confusion from some lawmakers in both parties over its complexity on how and where the permit process might actually be carried out.

Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, Thursday said she was “beginning to panic” that the unamended bill might not have made it through the lawmaking process.

But lawmakers largely agreed they had concerns over leaving wedding barns unregulated and suggested the issue be taken up again next session.

“I think that discussion is going to be had, whether it’s here in the Legislature or if it winds up in a court somewhere,” Swearingen said.

While the bill as amended did pass the committee unanimously, Sinicki said she had some concerns about the expansion of bar hours statewide instead of only in the Milwaukee metro area. She said she worried the late hours in more rural communities without strong public transit might increase drunk driving incidents.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told reporters Thursday after a Rules Committee hearing that he was confident the bill would pass the Assembly but that he hadn’t talked with Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, on where the Senate stands on the bill.

AB 869 currently has no Senate companion and no senators are signed on as cosponsors.

See the bill here.

See the amendment here.

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