Dems sought unsuccessfully today to get the Senate to sign off on extending bar hours to 4 a.m. during the party’s national convention in Milwaukee this summer.
An Assembly committee signed off on the proposal last week. But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, indicated earlier today that momentum for the proposal was fading in his caucus.
Dems then tried to amend legislation dealing with opportunity zones to add provisions from the Assembly bill with the Legislature on the verge of adjourning for the session.
State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, pitched the idea as an economic opportunity for bars and restaurants as well as a boost to the state’s ability to showcase a successful convention. Ohio and Pennsylvania passed similar legislation for the 2016 conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia.
“We have thousands of Democrats coming into the state of Wisconsin, opening up their pocketbooks. It’s going to be Wisconsin’s opportunity to shine. We want to make sure that delegates and their guests and everybody is happy. We like it when people come to Wisconsin and spend money.”
The amendment, which was rejected on a voice vote, included the same provisions as the Assembly bill. That includes: allowing municipalities to permit or deny a restaurant or bar’s request to stay open until 4 a.m. from July 13 to July 17; authorizing the Department of Revenue to issue retail liquor licenses to racetrack grounds; and closing a loophole where a brewery could sell beer at all hours without being subject to liquor license limitations
Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, noted bar time is currently 2 a.m. and questioned why extending that by two hours was such a priority for a body that has more pressing issues to deal with.
Meanwhile, Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, recounted his past work as a police officer doing accident reconstruction and the number of crashes each year in Wisconsin that involve alcohol. He argued extending the hours would lead to people getting drunker before driving home, leading to more crashes and deaths. He called that “unconscionable.”