Our Take

Over-Regulation, Backstabbing Trample Wine Walk (UPDATED: Sign the Petition)

Bryan Dent
Written by Bryan Dent

Wine walk fundraisers won’t hold much appeal for a drunkard.  Unless you really want to support whatever cause is being sponsored, or are dragged to one by a female companion, there is little to be gained in attending.  Still, I think it’s important to show solidarity with those whose wine walks are arbitrarily being taken away.

At a wine walk you buy a ticket in advance ($30 seems about average) with the money going to some worthy cause.  The day of the event you might be given a commemorative wine glass.  You also get a map of a dozen or so businesses within walking distance that will offer you some wine.  Not a full pour, just a sip, perhaps one ounce.  By the end of the walk you’ll have consumed about two glasses of wine, a meager amount, but then drinking is not the point of these things.  The point is to raise funds and to get walkers into local businesses they might otherwise never visit.

Unfortunately, these useful events have just been declared illegal in Wisconsin by the state’s Department of Revenue.  It seems that each individual participating business would need its own license to pour wine to visitors, as well as comply with the health regulations that govern restaurants.  As a result the city of Reedsburg, Wisconsin, whose annual wine walk raises funds for neighborhood revitalization, just cancelled its event.  Others will surely follow.

In fairness to the Department of Revenue, they did not go out looking for fundraisers to shut down.  No brownshirts appeared to issue warnings or write tickets.  Instead some anonymous inquirers asked for clarification of the legality of wine walks, and the Department printed new guidelines, as they were obliged to do.

Who went to the Department in the first place?  Pete Madland, executive director of the Tavern League of Wisconsin, insists it was no one in his office.  But Madland’s vehement denunciation of wine walks looks awfully suspicious:

“Wine walks are illegal,” Madland said. “They always have been.”

Madland said local officials view wine walks as harmless events that serve worthy causes and, thus, look the other way when asked to issue wine walk permits.


Get the fuck outta here.  What is this guy, running for Grinch of the Year?  Is he so obtuse that he doesn’t realize stomping on wine fundraisers is not helpful to the League’s image?

Ms. Kari Walker, chairwoman of the Reedsburg Revitalization Organization that sponsors the wine walk, insists there are ways around the Department of Revenue’s regulations.  Perhaps the wine walk can come back at a later date in a modified form.  I hope she’s right, and wish her nothing but the best.  Hers is a righteous fight against bureaucracy and stupidity that is worthy of support.

UPDATE:  Sign the petition to keep wine walks alive here.

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Bryan Dent

Bryan Dent

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