Some people have questioned the city of Brookfield’s decision to issue Total Wine & More a Class A liquor license rather than a Class B liquor license, as Total Wine had requested.
The city of Brookfield issues liquor licenses pursuant to Chapter 125 of the Wisconsin Statutes. That chapter provides for Class A liquor licenses for businesses that sell liquor for off-premise consumption (e.g. liquor stores). The chapter provides for Class B liquor licenses for businesses that sell liquor for on-premise consumption (e.g. restaurants, taverns).
State law provides that a business can serve a customer limited samples of alcoholic beverages under a Class A license. Specifically, two three-ounce glasses of wine, two three-ounce glasses of beer, and ½-ounce of spirits may be served to any one customer under a Class A license. Total Wine is a liquor store and the city of Brookfield has given them a provisional Class A license. The fact that Total Wine would like to serve more samples than is allowed under state law for a Class A licensee is an issue for them to take up with the state of Wisconsin – not with the city of Brookfield, which is applying state law in accordance with its letter and intent.
Other liquor stores appreciate the fact that the city of Brookfield is applying state law fairly and understand that changes in the sampling provisions for Class A license holders can only be made by the state government. They understand that there is a level playing field for liquor stores and other businesses in the city of Brookfield. They know it would be a gross abuse of discretion to give one liquor store a Class B license in an attempt to circumvent the sampling limitations under a Class A license. Such an action would set an extremely bad precedent and lead to other similar businesses applying for Class B licenses, the number of which is strictly limited by state law and which are intended for restaurants and taverns, where alcoholic beverages are sold for on-premises consumption.
I would support a change by the state government allowing more sampling in general under a Class A liquor license and have discussed this with Brookfield’s state legislators. Many Brookfield aldermen feel the same way. I believe legislation will be introduced to this effect. In the meantime, the city of Brookfield should not be faulted for applying current state law consistent with its letter and intent.
Judging from lobbying and campaign finance reports, Total Wine apparently understands that the state government makes the rules about liquor licenses. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently reported that Total Wine spent $46,000 in lobbying state legislators in the first half of 2016. Also, the most recent campaign finance reports show that Total Wine co-owners Robert and David Trone, who reside out of state, have contributed more than $30,000 to Wisconsin legislative campaigns since Sept. 23 of this year.
Anyone who is paying attention knows that the city of Brookfield is welcoming to businesses and developers. For every disgruntled person who is critical of the city, there are multitudes who will attest to Brookfield as a great place to do business. The city government is demanding in setting high standards, and it seeks to make principled, fair and equitable decisions. It welcomes the opportunity to work collaboratively with businesses and developers for the benefit of the community.
The numbers attest to the foregoing point. For 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue has determined that the city of Brookfield had more than $125 million in net new construction. This is the highest amount of net new construction for our city in at least the last 20 years. We expect 2016 will also be a very strong year for us, and are hopeful about 2017 as well. Further, the city of Brookfield, which ranks 18th in population in the state of Wisconsin (with approximately 38,000 residents), ranks third in the state in the equalized value of its real estate ($6.8 billion), behind only Milwaukee and Madison. This is hardly the record of a city that is anti-business or anti-development.
The city of Brookfield has been, and continues to be, open for business.