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Tavern & Retail-Store Liquor Licenses

Are you thinking about opening up a Class-A or B liquor store, a Class-B tavern or nightclub, or obtaining a Class-C wine license for a restaurant in Milwaukee or its surrounding areas? Do yourself a huge favor and retain me to advise you about applicable municipal and state laws, and how to properly go about it before you sign a contract to take over an existing business. It may save you a ton of cash and lots of heartache and frustration! And, because it's a business-related expense, my fees are normally tax deductible (consult an accountant for more details about business-related tax deductions).

Are you already licensed and having problems with potentially losing your liquor license due to neighborhood complaints and/or frequent police calls? Then you definitely need to call me to see how I can help you keep hold of your livelihood!

Liquor License Requirements

Though there are a few basic steps that must be taken to get any class license to serve or sell intoxicating beverages on or off premises, the circumstances of each applicant's intended physical location, background, nature of business and other factors dictate differing requirements for each application. Call or e-mail me anytime for an affordable consultation to discuss what might be required for your desired plans.

90 Proof: Liquor Licensing in Wisconsin

Click above to read my feature article about liquor licensing in the May, 2009 edition of Wisconsin Lawyer, the official publication of the State Bar of Wisconsin!

Please click here to see article corrections.

Where and why might a license be denied?

There is really no place in this area of the state where neighborhood associations or even individual residents do not routinely object to liquor licenses, especially new license applications. Milwaukee County and, in particular, the City of Milwaukee are tough areas in which to operate. No part of the city is free of objectors - not Walker's Point, not Brady Street, the rest of the east side, downtown, Bay View, North Avenue, River West, the north side, nor the south side. Objections are made for all kinds of reasons, including concentration of licensed establishments in any given area, health and safety concerns and owner/applicant fitness to run the business. Even having called the police yourself (or your employees having called them) more than once in a prior year to come to your tavern to help with problem customers or others can result in objections to your license renewal that can close you down for good if you don't have someone like me with the experience to assist and guide you through what can be a very traumatic and time-consuming experience before the city's licensing body.

Do I really need a lawyer for my liquor license application or renewal?

YES. Although you might already have some experience in applying for a liquor license in this city and/or in neighboring municipalities, and although you might be negotiating the take-over of an already-licensed establishment that you consider to be a shoo-in for a license, doing it all yourself without hiring an attorney to at least be your spokesman will bring the area alderman, neighborhood association, surrounding businesses and residents to think that you're just another cheap-skate wanting to earn a fast buck off their area at what will eventually be their expense because you'll cut corners in other ways (besides not hiring legal counsel) that will inevitably make the area run down and lower the property values. Hiring experienced legal counsel "out of the gate" to represent you before them will get you more respect and support from them in your bid for the license in their area - it provides them an objective degree of insurance that you're serious, responsible and devoted to what you're doing in their neighborhood.

In some municipalities, especially in the City of Milwaukee, certain aldermen are less than upfront and honest with their constituents when it comes to their support of tavern licenses, stringing the applicants along with false and misleading promises of support, with some of them threatening the applicants in private meetings or even making unreasonable demands on the applicants in exchange for their support (I recently had one particularly despicable alderman - who has all of his colleagues at City Hall fooled into thinking he's a great guy - demand that clients implement a racist, discriminatory admission policy to maintain his wishy-washy support for the renewal of their existing tavern license!). An experienced attorney is really the only way to safely maneuver one's way around Milwaukee politics.

Even long-time license holders often do not have the legal experience, or even the time, to step up and fight trouble from neighborhood organizations, the area alder person or others when license troubles appear to be imminent. I can usually mount a successful defense of your license in ways my experience allows that you would never even think of on your own! A newcomer to the business seeking to purchase an existing liquor store, tavern or nightclub should not rely on what the seller has to say about the licensing process. Typically, a seller will just tell you what you want to hear in order to close the sale (that it's easy and that everything will go smoothly for you). They'll get you to sign a long-term lease contract or even buy the building before you even approach the licensing authorities, and that could result in lots of personal and financial grief for you later on down the road because the transitioning of a license from one owner to the next seldom goes perfectly.

Hiring me will not break your bank . . .

It won't necessarily cost you a fortune to hire me for help. For somebody thinking of taking over an existing, licensed business, my fees start as low as a flat $500 for guidance and advice during the planning phase on how to execute the license application form and any addendum or amendments - and, again, my fee is normally a tax-deductible, business expense that will virtually pay for itself. So don't be cheap and end up really getting yourself into big trouble by not making the wise investment of obtaining good, legal assistance from me before you find out that you can't really do it all yourself (and do something in the process that you'll regret later).

Click HERE to read a funny OnMiIwaukee.com article about City of Milwaukee liquor sales hours, and to get an idea of how complex and confusing the liquor-license laws can be!

I maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau!

I also help those seeking professional licensure at the state level, such as for medical, real-estate, vendor and other licenses.


I helped a controversial Milwaukee nightclub owner get his doors open in the face of what one of the city's former aldermen stated was the worst neighborhood opposition to a liquor license organized in the city's history! This was among the very first of many such cases with which I have successfully helped Wisconsin businesses get and/or renew their licenses, including Bar Louie (on Water Street in Milwaukee) and the Milwaukee Valley Scottish Rite on Van Buren.



(A very happy licensee celebrates reopening his establishment after over a year of fighting city hall!)

 

P.O. Box 579, Milwaukee, WI 53201 414-224-0668 Wisconsin State Bar # 1020925 -- New York Atty Reg. # 4308573