Local breweries, wineries worry over potential last-minute regul - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Local breweries, wineries worry over potential last-minute regulations

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) - -

As craft breweries and wineries become more of a tourist destination, a proposal in Madison is aiming to limit their ability to sell products where they're made.

No formal bill has been drafted or introduced yet. However, according to the Associated Press, a memo obtained by a conservative group outlines the plan to only allow breweries, wineries and distilleries to sell to distributors, essentially eliminating the need for tap and tasting rooms.

"Without the tap room to offset our costs, we would not be able to employ half of the people we currently do," Pearl Street Brewery owner Joe Katchever, said. "We would have to revamp the business and honestly we would be struggling to survive."

While its unknown who is pushing the proposal, one of the reasons for it is to level the playing field for bars and taverns. However Katchever said his brewery's relationship with local bars is a business one.

"Our tap room does not compete with bars," he said. "Bars are our partners and our customers. We work very closely with literally hundreds of bars to promote their business which in turn promotes our business."

He also said the tap room provides a space for several community fundraisers throughout the year, all of which would be lost if the tap room is eliminated.

At Elmaro Vineyards in Trempealeau, community is valued over competition.

"We draw people, tourists, to the area and we don't serve meals therefore they can go to one of the local taverns, local restaurants and stay at the local hotels," Owner Lynita Docken-Delaney, said. "So many things are intertwined, I see it as us all helping each other as a community."

Docken-Delaney said she's heard if the proposal became law, local control could dictate whether tap and tasting rooms continue to exist.

"The price of a commodity, or a bottle of wine or glass of wine would increase because we would have to purchase it back from someone we sold it to," she said.

Lobbyists with the Wisconsin Tavern League said they have no involvement with the memo, but admits its members can't compete with craft breweries.

"There's a 120 some breweries in Wisconsin and my guess is you'd lose the vast majority of them if this were to become law," Katchever said.

The budget is expected to be signed sometime in July. 

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