Tavern League Newsroom

Former Alcohol Chief Opposes Home Delivery Bills

June 3, 2019

Former head of the state alcohol enforcement opposes alcohol home delivery bill. Please see the letter Roger Johnson sent to his legislators opposing the bills proposed by Rep Gary Tauchen (R-Shawano) for home delivery of alcohol. Contact your legislators today to oppose.


I recently learned that bills have been drafted, and will perhaps be introduced, to allow home delivery of alcohol by Wisconsin retailers to customers. I write to express my opposition to this idea.

I had previously worked for the Dept. of Revenue's Alcohol & Tobacco Enforcement for 38 years and have now been retired for 5 years. I like to believe I speak with a fair bit of knowledge in the area of alcohol enforcement and am concerned when long-standing laws (and the ideas behind them) are misunderstood or ignored.

Alcohol is unlike other commodities of commerce. This is due in large part to the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution. The courts have long interpreted alcohol statutes as being "restrictive" and "restraining" and are to be construed accordingly. While times have changed to accommodate many businesses, I would caution against this in the areas of alcohol.

State law provides that alcohol sales are to take place "face to face on the licensed premises." The very reason that we have such requirements (licensed premises, face to face sales, etc.) is to help ensure that the sale of alcohol (a legal, but a regulated, age-restricted produce) is made under public view and scrutiny.

Municipalities license "specific persons" at "specific premises" within their respective communities. Wisconsin has a long-standing tradition in support of local, municipal governance and control. This proposal (as I understand it) would erode a municipality's control (i.e., a retailer on Milwaukee would be able to traffic in alcohol into another municipality, i.e., Sauk City) without that municipality's approval/oversight.

In addition, the reason for licensing "a specific premises" is that the community/police are aware of their municipality's approved locations and can monitor activities at these premises. The license is a public document and is required to be posted for public view, much like a license plate on a vehicle. Police have a legal right to inspect such premises within their respective jurisdictions to ensure compliance with state law and local ordinances (underage on the premises, after hours, inspect alcohol stock to ensure it was Wi tax paid and obtained from a legitimate source).

Also, to allow in-state alcohol retailers to engage in off-premises delivery while denying out-of-state retailers so to do so, may likely give rise to court challenges, such as claims of discrimination (see U.S, Supreme Court case - Granholm). This could then likely open the floodgates and allow ANY AND ALL retailers throughout the United States to engages in such deliveries (I believe Michigan did so and quickly repealed their "alcohol home delivery" law). And, how could Wisconsin POSSIBLY monitor and regulate sales coming in throughout the United States?

I have no vested interest in this matter, except for my concern that the current, working system be maintained for the benefit of all Wisconsin citizens.

There is very good reason and history for Wisconsin's alcohol license and distribution system. Please help maintain it. "If it ain't broke, DON'T BREAK IT!"

Roget Johnson
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