By Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MADISON – One of the state’s most powerful lobbying groups is asking lawmakers to allow bars and restaurants to deliver alcohol to people staying in their homes under Gov. Tony Evers order to stay inside.
It’s one of a dozen requests the Tavern League of Wisconsin is putting to lawmakers as they draft relief packages with Evers for the state suffering economic losses as the coronavirus outbreak forces people to stay put and closes scores of businesses.
“Taverns and restaurants in Wisconsin will have been closed to regular business for 38 days after the current Executive Order expires,” Tavern League President Chris Marsicano, who owns The Village Supper Club in Delavan, said in a Tuesday letter to lawmakers. “Without the additional help of state government the hospitality industry will suffer significant permanent loss.”
The group also is asking lawmakers to:
- Implement a sales tax holiday for all sales at bars and restaurants between March 17 and July 30.
- Bar cable television companies from cutting off service to bars and restaurants for nonpayment for 60 days after the order expires.
- Allow golfers on golf courses, which are closed under Evers’ order.
- Prohibit foreclosures, evictions or insurance cancellations of any bar or restaurant until 60 days after Evers’ order expires.
- Waive all municipal and state licensing fees for bars and restaurants in 2020.
- Delay the July 2019 local property tax payment and provide a state credit for 2020 property taxes for all bars and restaurants.
- The Evers administration provided legislative leaders on March 21 with a $706 million relief bill that is chiefly aimed at health care and individual unemployment issues. A second bill is in the works related to economic recovery and less-urgent health care needs.
Republican leaders of the Legislature said they also are working on legislation. It’s unclear when lawmakers plan to hold a floor session to take up relief measures.
Aides to Evers, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos did not immediately answer whether the Tavern League’s requests are measures the state leaders would support in their pieces of legislation.
Bars and restaurants have been closed for in-room service since March 17, allowing workers there to provide delivery and takeout service only.
Other states have relaxed alcohol laws as the majority of governors have ordered — or strongly advised — residents in their states to stay at home as much as possible to avoid spreading the highly-contagious virus further.
The State Liquor Authority in New York on March 18 temporarily lifted its rules preventing restaurants and bars from providing liquor, wine and mixed drinks to go or by delivery.
Patrons may order a cocktail or bottle of wine with a takeout or delivery order under the temporary rules, with some restrictions, most notably that the alcohol must accompany a food purchase.
Overall, people are buying more alcohol since the pandemic hit the U.S. U.S. sales of alcoholic beverages rose 55% in the week ending March 21, according to Nielsen.
Spirits such as tequila, gin and premixed cocktails led the way, with sales jumping 75% compared to the same period last year. Wine sales were up 66% while beer sales rose 42%. And online sales far outpaced in-store sales.
Nielsen said online alcohol sales were up 243%.
The USA TODAY NETWORK contributed to this report.
Top photo: A closed Malarkey’s in Wausau, days after bars were ordered to shut down. Photo credit: Then and Now photography for Wausau Pilot & Review
Editor’s note: This story is being republished through a partnership with the Wisconsin Newspaper Association