Thursday, April 30, 2009

What is a Restaurant?

A few days ago, Jason from WKOW's Brew News weblog asked me what I thought of the brewpub bill. After unloading my usual tirade about its injustices, my lawyer asked me "where is this 50% food/beer thing coming from?" Oh, that's easy. I'll just pull up the Wisconsin statutes and run a quick search... where the @#$% did it go!? I was under the impression that if you wanted to open a restaurant in Wisconsin, alcohol could account for no more than 50% of your total sales. That doesn't seem to be the case, which I confirmed by calling the Department of Health Services. The woman on the phone sounded offended that I was asking about alcohol and directed me to the Department of Revenue, which has nothing to do with restaurant permits. So here's what the brewpub law really says about food sales:

-A brewery can't sell food at all.
-A brewpub must sell food, but the amount isn't specified.

This realization makes me hate the brewpub law a lot less. I still hate it, but the alcohol sales restriction is a Madison issue. As far as I can tell, receiving a Food and Drink license from the city doesn't depend on alcohol sales. However, the city's alcohol ordinances (item 38 at this website) define a restaurant as having alcohol sales that account for no more than 50% of gross receipts. Using that definition, as well as an additional definition of "bona fide restaurant", the city makes liquor license approval much easier for establishments that sell a lot of food.

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