Our Mission

The Tavern League of Wisconsin is a non-profit trade association dedicated to serving the needs of the retail beverage alcohol segment of the hospitality industry in the State of Wisconsin. The League exists to provide services to members that are not available to them as individuals and to use the collective strength of its membership to accomplish, as a group, goals that cannot be accomplished alone. The League provides its members with services such as legislative and governmental relations, legal information, educational services and promotes the industry on behalf of its membership.

Founded in 1935, the Tavern League of Wisconsin is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit organization which also has a charitable arm, the Wisconsin Tavern League Foundation which is a 501(c)(3). With over 5,000 members, the Tavern League of Wisconsin is the largest trade association in the United States to exclusively represent the interests of licensed beverage retailers. The TLW is comprised of 70 local leagues representing every county in the state of Wisconsin.
More than 161,000 jobs are generated by the alcohol industry in Wisconsin — that’s an important, positive impact on the economy, with pre-pandemic figures close to $3.2 billion in total annual wages paid, and taxes totaling more than $2.6 billion.
In 2020, the Tavern League of Wisconsin was proud to contribute $10.5 million to support nearly 25,000 charities across the state. Our members are members of their communities, and whenever possible they give back to their communities with generous fundraisers to benefit a wide variety of charities.

The TLW SafeRide Program has greatly expanded over the last 10 years and has helped contribute to a decline in alcohol-related fatalities. In 2018 the TLW SafeRide Program provided over 91,000 free rides home to patrons at a cost of just under $1 million.

Each spring and fall, the Tavern League of Wisconsin hosts a convention and trade show for its members. The convention is an opportunity to share information with members from around the state, while the trade show brings vendors to our members and provides one-stop shopping for their businesses.

The Tavern League of Wisconsin annually hosts a Legislative Day event in Madison which is among the largest lobbying day events in Madison. Last year over 450 TLW members attended. Legislative Day provides TLW members and their employees with an opportunity to hear updates on important issues facing the hospitality industry, and to lobby their legislators on those important issues. Bringing the voices of the hospitality industry to Madison is a valuable tool that helps to educate lawmakers and give them a much better understanding of the issues facing small businesses in their districts. It is also an opportunity to educate legislators about all the charitable work TLW members do in their communities. Tavern League members also travel to Washington D.C. each year to meet with the Wisconsin congressional delegation regarding federal issues facing the hospitality industry.

Our Goals

To represent every member and maintain a strong voice in the legislative process in Madison and Washington.
To keep members abreast of current activities and future goals of the Tavern League of Wisconsin.
To update licensees on legal and legislative issues affecting the alcohol beverage industry on the state and federal level.
To provide educational opportunities which prepare licensees for the escalating challenges facing alcohol beverage retailers.
To keep the lines of communication open through various channels and levels of representation: i.e. Board of Officers and Directors, Local League Presidents and Secretaries, monthly local league meetings, District-wide caucuses, statewide conventions, bi-monthly On Premise magazine and monthly newsletters.
To offer licensees the opportunity to network with fellow members.
To provide members with the perfect balance of motivation, education and entertainment.
To create goodwill through the community and safety through our safe rider programs in our communities.
To continually strive to be the most valuable source of information for our members so that they cannot afford to not be a member.

Code of Ethics

The Tavern League of Wisconsin believes in taking good care of our customers and protecting against the effects of alcohol abuse. We want our customers to have a good time and we are interested in their well-being.
We reserve the right to refuse service to persons we believe are intoxicated. Friends don't let friends drive intoxicated. We want to be your friend and make sure you get home safely.
We will not encourage excessive drinking. You count with us. May we count on you to have a soft drink, coffee or non-alcohol beverage when you feel you may have had too much to drink? We want you to be able to come back again.
We want you to get home safely. If you need a ride, we will try to arrange safe transportation home. We hope you will consider doing the same for your friends.
We will not knowingly serve an underage person not accompanied by a parent or a legal guardian and will check age identification when in doubt. We ask for your cooperation.
We will not encourage or permit alcohol consumption contests on our premises.
We will keep ourselves informed, and encourage all of our customers to help us enforce the alcohol beverage laws, practice responsible drinking and good citizenship.


Want To Know What We'll Do For You? Just Look . . .

Our legislative efforts help put a stop to bills that could threaten the vitality of your business. By joining, you can make sure that your voice is heard at every level of government and foster the ideal conditions for a thriving industry. 

Bartender License Portability
The Tavern League of Wisconsin responded to the concerns members had in obtaining operator licenses for employees who were licensed in another municipality by lobbying for a change in state law. Under the new law( 125.17(2) ) a municipality must issue a provisional(60 days)operators license to a person with a valid bartenders license from another municipality and who has paid the proper fee. This important change not only benefits the employee but also the employer.

Streamline Video Enforcement
The streamlining of enforcement of video gambling laws stands as one of the Tavern League of Wisconsin’s biggest accomplishments. In an effort to provide statewide uniform enforcement of video gambling laws, the Legislature and Governor Doyle agreed with the TLW in supporting a bill to consolidate enforcement within the Department of Revenue, which already regulates the beverage licensed industry in Wisconsin. The result is a clear statewide standard easy for all licensees to follow instead of a patchwork of local ordinances regulating video amusement devices. The change moved enforcement from the local, county and Department of Justice and placed in within the DOR. Only agents from the DOR have the statutory authority to enforce the existing state laws relating to Chapter 945.

Civil Liability Exemption (Dram Shop)
Without question, the biggest accomplishment of the Tavern League of Wisconsin is securing third party civil liability exemption; better known as Dram Shop Liability Insurance. Forty-four states require servers of alcohol to carry Dram Shop Liability Insurance which can range from $8,000–$20,000 a year for a small Mom and Pop establishment—if an insurance company will even underwrite a policy for a small tavern.

ID Scanner Law
2013 Wisconsin Act 215 - An Act to create 125.09 (7) of the statutes; relating to: prohibiting municipalities from providing alcohol beverages retailers with identification scanners.
New Tied House Law
The Tavern League of Wisconsin worked with Beer Wholesalers and Brewers to change outdated tied house laws. The results include:
  • Raising the limit from $150 to $2,500 for the value of signs, clocks and menu boards that a brewer or wholesaler may give to Class “B” licensee at one time
  • Allowing brewers/wholesalers to give Class “B” licensees signs made of paper, cardboard, plastic, vinyl or other like material for placement inside the premises, with unlimited dollar value
  • Increases from $75 to $500 the daily dollar limit that a brewer or wholesaler may spend to provide entertainment to a Class “B” licensee no more than 8 times a year (Note: This allows a brewer to spend up to $500 for entertainment and a wholesaler to spend up to $500 for entertainment for each brand they distribute.)
  • Allow a brewer or wholesaler to contribute money or things of value to a bona-fide national, statewide or local trade association that derives its principal income from membership dues of Class “B” licensees

Uniform Tobacco Compliance Checks
The TLW worked to pass legislation to provide for uniform compliance checks relating to tobacco stings. The bill requires persons involved in underage tobacco stings to follow a standard uniform compliance standard and will prohibit vigilante sting operations.

Fairness in Music Licensing Act
At the urging of the Tavern League of Wisconsin, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sponsored this legislation, which resulted in the following:

  • Establishments under 3,750 square feet are exempt from paying royalty fees for the use of radios or TVs in their establishments.
  • Establishments greater than 3,750 square feet are exempt from paying royalty fees if they use no more than six speakers of which not more than four are located in any one room or adjoining space, and if there are no more than four TVs of which not more than one is located in any room, and none is greater than 55 inches. TVs without the sound on are not required to pay any fees regardless of size and number in a room.
  • Provides for a rate court to operate out of regional federal circuit court to handle rate disputes, instead of requiring disputes to be handled only in the New York federal district court.
  • Music licensing with ASCAP and BMI creates up to 20% savings in licensing fees for members.

Adding Value to Your License - TLW Successfully Lobbies Budget Change
The Tavern League of Wisconsin successfully secured a variety of changes which directly benefits license holders. The key provision of the TLW Budget Change was an increase in the issuance of new liquor licenses to provide more value to existing license holders. The budget bill eliminated half of the un-issued licenses in the state and requires a minimum $10,000 application fee for new license holders.

12 Bottle Bill
The Tavern League of Wisconsin successfully lowered the penalties for our members who would occasionally run out of a bottle of liquor during business hours. If you were caught borrowing or buying a bottle of liquor from someone other than a wholesaler you faced huge fines, up to $10,000 and possible loss of your liquor license and possible prison time. You can now purchase up to 12 one liter bottles per month with a penalty not to exceed $100 with no threat to your license.

Double Hit Bill
Bill Cracks Down on Excess Fines
Through the grassroots lobbying efforts of the Oshkosh City Tavern League, the TLW was successful in passing a bill to prohibit a municipality from issuing two citations for a single underage on premise violation as had been the case in Oshkosh. The law states that either the owner or bartender may be fined, but not both.

Defeat Excise Tax Increases
Legislation Helps Avoid Price Hike
The Tavern League of Wisconsin successfully defeated efforts to raise excise taxes on beer and a $1/pack cigarette tax in the 2003-05 budget bill as a means to help balance the $3.2 billion state budget deficit.

Defeated Changes in 15-day Beer Credit Law
Standard Business Practices Protected
The Tavern League of Wisconsin fought back efforts to change the 15-day beer credit law for a more onerous law which would have negatively impacted retailers. An attempt was made to require cash on delivery for all Class “B” license holders.

SOT Eliminated
The Tavern League of Wisconsin, along with its National Association, American Beverage Licensees (ABL) fought to permanently repeal the Special Occupational Tax (SOT). This was an annual fee of $250 you were required to pay because you were a retailer of beer and/or liquor. This tax had been with us since the Civil War.

Lower Penalties for Video gaming penalties
The TLW successfully lobbied the Legislature to reduce penalties for operating certain video gaming machines. Through the grassroots lobbying effort of the TLW, the Legislature passed legislation that provides reasonable penalties for the possession of 5 or fewer video gaming devices on the premise of a Class “B” retailer.

The following is a side-by-side comparison of the old law vs. the new law for persons convicted of operating an illegal gambling device. The law can be found in the Wisconsin Statutes at 945.03 (2m) & 945.04 (2m).

Old Law
Class E Felony
Maximum $10,000 fine
Maximum 2 years in prison
Loss of Liquor License
New Law
Civil Forfeiture
Maximum $500 fine per machine – up to 5 machines
No jail time
Cannot lose Liquor License

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