Thursday, March 19, 2009

Man, Talk About A Really Specific Law

In Wisconsin, the general rule is that breweries aren't allowed to give anything away except tasters less than 3oz. We'll ignore, for the moment, reality and just all agree that this is the law. This means that beer fests, etc. have to pay for the kegs that the breweries then serve to attendees.

There are two exceptions to this rule, codified in Wisconsin Statute Section 125.33(2):
"(h) [breweries may] contribute money or other things of value [read: kegs] to or for the benefit of a nonprofit corporation, exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code ..., which is conducting festivals of limited duration ..."
--- So (h) basically allows breweries to donate kegs to festivals held by 501(c)(3) nonprofits, this seems reasonable, as a public policy we want to encourage charitable giving and fundraising by these entities, so we carve out a narrow exception that allows breweries to donate beer, that's all fine and dandy

Here's the second exception:
"(hm) [breweries may] contribute money or other things of value to or for a nonprofit corporation which conducts an autumn ethnic festival of limited duration in a 2nd class city that had a population in 1986 of at least 49,000 but less than 50,000 ..."
--- Does that seem really specific to you? It does to me. How many cities in Wisconsin do you think had a population between 49,000 and 50,000 in 1986??? Off the top of my head, I can think of one: La Crosse, WI. So, unless I'm mistaken (and I don't think I am - how many other cities of this size have an "autumn ethnic festival" worthy of carving out an exception for?) this exception allows breweries to donate beer to the La Crosse Oktoberfest (an "autumn ethnic festival"). All the other festivals and Oktoberfests? Screw you, you have to pay. I don't get why we make an exception for this one? Why the protectionism? More importantly, why go through such tortured specificity to get to it? Why not just say "La Crosse, WI"? Why say "a 2nd class city (HA!) that had a population in 1986 (why 1986?) of at least 49,000 but less than 50,000"? Do any other cities even fit this description? The only ones I can find that are close are Oshkosh, Sheboygan, and Wauwatosa. Presumably, if these others do fit that criteria, they could start "autumn ethnic festivals" (read: Oktoberfests) and breweries could donate beer to them.


  1. I'm starting to appreciate the fact that Wisconsin's government doesn't even pretend to represent its citizens. At least we're not being lied to.

  2. Are you going to dig into this further? Throwing this out as a post and giving the impression that it's a way to say 'screw you' to other municipalities is a bit reckless. I will admit that the LaCrosse Oktoberfest is not really an ethnic festival anymore and only until the last 3 or 4 years have you been able to drink anything resembling craft beer at the fest.
    So, when was this exception enacted? my guess would be late 80's (hence the 1986 year).
    In the late 80's I don't believe there were any other local festivals in Wisc the size of Oktoberfest (except the State Fair and Summerfest). It may be for a small city to support a fest of that size more donations were needed and they were able to get the exception through (good for them, I say, their state rep earned the reelection that year I'm sure) And the Heileman Brewery then had a way to contribute to a local charity event without worrying about potential tax/legal issues.

    I think finding out what is donated under these exceptions is also important. "Money or other things of value" is a pretty broad statement...things of value can go well beyond beer (kegs aren't donated; they are loaned and the brewery gets them back) - could be an old tapper truck; cups to serve the beer; signs and posters; ice; wristbands to prevent underage could be quite a list.
    I look forward to further posts on this, and I look forward to Oktoberfest (great parade). Prost!


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