By Shereen Siewert

Bars and restaurants throughout Wisconsin can sell cocktails to go beginning Sunday, a move that drew formal opposition from city leaders in Wausau.

Gov. Tony Evers signed the bill into law Friday, just before happy hour, but it won’t take effect until after it’s published on Sunday.

The bill, which won bipartisan approval in the Legislature, allows for mixed drinks and glasses of wine to be sold to go as long as they have tamper-evident seals. Drinks can be sold for pickup only, not delivery. More than 30 states have similar laws.

The Wisconsin Grocers Association and the Wisconsin Public Health Association opposed the measure. During a January meeting, Wausau Public Health and Safety Committee Chair Lisa Rasmussen said the measure undermines local control of alcohol licensing, which has been the responsibility of municipalities for decades.

In January, the committee voted to oppose the bill, citing concerns over state legislation that “encourages and increases the potential opportunities alcohol consumption by operators of motor vehicles or by underage individuals.” The full council voted on the matter in February, but stopped short of opposing a bill that enables home delivery.

“We’re concerned about mixing and transporting alcohol,” Rasmussen said in February.

But many groups, including those representing the state’s tourism, hotel and lodging industries, along with bars and restaurants supported the measure.

Supporters have been pushing for the law change for a year, saying it offers another way for bars and restaurants suffering from drops in attendance to get by during the pandemic. According to a November survey from the National Restaurant Association, nearly half of Wisconsin restaurant operators said they are considering closing temporarily, while dozens have shut their doors permanently in the wake of COVID-19. 

The bill takes effect immediately after its Sunday publication.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.