A group of Republican lawmakers are introducing a bill that will relax restrictions on wineries and breweries in Wisconsin. The proposed bill is being referred to as the 'Cheers Wisconsin!' Bill.
Lawmakers said the goal is to make business easier and more fair for small businesses in the industry across the state.
"We celebrate our taverns, our supper clubs, our craft brewers, our distilleries and our wineries," said Representative Shannon Zimmerman (R), River Falls. "And, we have to stop thinking that there's a very specific or finite amount of revenue to go around. That's simply not the case. There's more revenue to be had."
In recent years, legislation has put more restrictions on these businesses.
"For more than a decade now, the rights for small brewers have been chipped away and slowly removed one at a time," said Joe Katchever, Founder and Brewmaster at Pearl Street Brewery in La Crosse.
Katchever hopes that with this bill brewers and crafters in the industry will have more of a say.
"We want a seat at the table," he said. "If we're going to be making laws that affect our business negatively or positively, we want to sit down and talk about them."
The proposed bill increases the amount of "Class B" retail liquor licenses by 10 percent in each municipality, increases beer production at brewpubs from 10,000 to 20,000 barrels each year, and gives brewers more control of distribution through wholesalers.
"By easing up the restrictions on breweries, it helps the customer because they will have more choice in the market," Katchever said.
He hopes to see the bill start a public discussion, as the future of the bill impacts the future of small business in the liquor industry.
"An open forum, an open debate on the table, so we can all turn the lights on and talk about it and find out what works best for Wisconsin," Katchever said.
The 'Cheers Wisconsin!' Bill also addresses wineries extending hours of operation until 2 a.m. and allowing for on-site beer licenses.
Katchever believes the bill is a step in the right direction whether or not it passes.