Wisconsin May Allow Bars To Stay Open Late for the Democratic National Convention—Why Not Always?

If cities will accommodate huge numbers of visitors, why not extend the courtesy to locals?


A Wisconsin proposal to allow bars across the state to stay open late during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Milwaukee in July looks likely to become law.

"The plan would let municipalities statewide extend closing hours until 4:00 a.m. from July 13 to July 17," Wisconsin Public Radio reported this week. "Without the change, bars and restaurants would have to close when they normally do at 2:00 a.m."

That's great. But if it's a good idea to let bars choose to stay open late for a few days in July—and it is—then it's also a good idea every other day of every other month, too.

Wisconsin is, by most measures, one of America's booziest states. It has one of the highest rates of per-capita alcohol consumption. Ten of the top 20 "drunkest" cities and towns in the country are located in Wisconsin.

It's also the only state where people of any age may legally consume alcohol in a bar or restaurant, provided any minor is with a parent, guardian, or spouse who's at least 21 and the business agrees to serve the under-21 drinker. 

But Wisconsin also has a prohibitionist streak. The Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project, an anti-alcohol policy project based at the University of Wisconsin Law School, has made it its mission to "improve the alcohol environment" by—you probably guessed—making alcohol less available, less attractive, and less affordable.

Interestingly, some version of the DNC alcohol story seems to pop up during nearly every presidential election cycle.

In 2012, lawmakers in North Carolina, which hosted the DNC Convention that year, loosened booze rules temporarily "to ensure booze flows freely" during the convention.

Four years later, in advance of the DNC in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania relaxed its alcohol rules somewhat for "event[s] directly connected to the convention… and convention attendees."

"If freedom from… the ability to sell alcohol past 2 a.m. is a good thing for the Democratic convention, why not allow average Pennsylvanians the same liberty?" PJ Media's Tyler O'Neil wrote in response to the plan.

Cleveland, which hosted the GOP Convention in 2016, also temporarily relaxed its rules to allow some taverns and pubs to stay open late during the convention.

America has a long and grand history of drunkenness at and around political conventions. As Barbara Holland relates in her wonderful book The Joy of Drinking, one of America's first conventions, the Constructional Convention in 1787, which also took place in Philadelphia, saw the 55 delegates gather in a tavern one night and consume "54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 8 of whiskey, 22 of port, 8 of hard cider and 7 bowls of punch so large that, it was said, ducks could swim around in them."

Relaxing regulations to accommodate drinkers might be a modern phenomenon, then, but it isn't confined to political conventions. Big national sporting events, for example, often spur some sort of relaxation of local drinking rules.

Clemson, South Carolina, home to the university of the same name, relaxed its alcohol rules when the school played in the national college football championship last month. Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., a stone's throw from last month's Super Bowl venue, also relaxed its alcohol rules for the big game.

All this regulatory relaxation seems arbitrary, selective, and superfluous. If it's a good idea to relax rules for alcohol consumption when tens of thousands of thirsty outside visitors are expected to gather in a city and drink alcohol, then why not let the locals take advantage of those same rules all year long?

Punish irresponsible drinkers—such as drunk drivers—whose actions do or might harm others. But let responsible adults drink when, where, and what they want to.

NEXT: Can Senseless Gun Regulations Be Constitutional? 

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  1. See? We know how to have fun, too.

    1. Legalize duck punch!

      1. God you constantly try so fucking hard and are never funny.

  2. Let adults do as they please? Madness.

  3. FYTW

    1. FYTW?!?!? Come ON now; don’t be so cynical!

      The REAL reason why the double standard here? Devout Democrat outsiders are obviously morally superior to the irresponsible locals, and can hold their wine-liquor-beer far better than the locals, as well. They’re just superior all around! More equal than the locals! So, of COURSE, different standards should apply! It’s just about basic fairness, is all!

      1. You have some shit in your teeth arpiniant1.

        1. You have a MASSIVE overload of narcissism in your personality!

          7 Ways Narcissists Make You Feel Inferior

          You’re trying VERY hard at these games, I see… But it’s not working! Not on me, it ain’t! Here’s how to “up your game”!

  4. “Punish…whose actions … might harm others. ”
    Are we sure we really want to go there??

  5. Beer for me, not for thee. Typical.

    1. My first impression was on the political class changing the rules so they could do what they wanted, while ignoring what the people want and instead restricting their liberty via force. We do see this abuse very often.

      Of note, the link shows it’s a Republican lawmaker’s bill, and he’s for it because of the increased revenue it would generate. The senate and assembly in Wisconsin are GOP controlled while the governor is a Democrat. So it kind of looks like a free market Republican, offering the political class more revenue, in exchange for giving the people a bit more freedom.

  6. The scare tactic reason is so adults aren’t still drunk driving around in the morning. That’s the offered excuse.

    That being said. Pre emptive fixes never work.

    1. Another reason for moderate bar closing hours, in residential neighborhoods only–
      Allowing neighbors a reasonable night’s sleep, not getting woken every 20-30 minutes all night long by a new set of drunks headed home, bellowing, maybe smashing a bottle, getting into their cars and slamming the doors, turning on the radio at 100 decibels before getting the volume right, then roaring off with squealing rubber. And all this with the assumption, not always true, that the bar is properly sound-proofed so that its own music and loud talk are not keeping the neighbors awake.

      Sleeping neighbors would not be a consideration in a commercial district, however.

  7. NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis was the catalyst for making ATL bars go from 4am to 2am for last call

    1. Is he a teetotaler?

  8. Drunk Democrats are OK if they’re out-of-towners with money to spend
    – and the drunker they are, the more money they’re likely to spend on local consumer goods like cheese-shaped hats and hookers.

    But your average Milwaukee Democrat probably isn’t going to buy cheese-shaped hats or romps with hookers. So where’s the economic stimulus?

    1. Agree on the former, disagree with the latter.

      1. I don’t, nobody romps with hookers like Democrat royalty.
        See: Johnson, Kennedy clan, both Clintons, Janet Reno, Weiner, etc…

        1. Or at least no so good at hiding it.

      2. But you can only buy the latter using the former as tender…

    2. Coastal democrats are mature responsible drinkers who can be trusted with the privilege of drinking for an extra 2 hours, not like these flyover rubes who need to be controlled at every turn

  9. George Webb’s would go out of business if all the drunk people didn’t go eat flapjacks and burgers at 230 am.

  10. They should open early too. They’re going to need to be plastered to vote for one of that lot.

    1. I vote for open bars AT the convention.

      1. A 2 drink mimimum.

  11. What’s the point of having power if you’re not going to use it to keep people from doing what they want to?

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  13. Interesting note here, the sponsor of the legislation is a Republican and former head of the Tavern League. The Democratic convention will be in Milwaukee for only a short time and it is important to get every last dime out of the delegates. To those coming from out of state I say bring money and spend generously while you are here. Also remember that the poor bartender and wait staff have to work extra so you can have drinks till 4 AM. Tip them generously.

  14. Well, this isn’t a good generosity, as far as I’m concern and as a reminder, the sponsor of the legislation is a Republican and former head of the Tavern League. This is my humble submission- Otyemmanuel.

    1. Hey, whatever happened to that prince of yours that used to send me emails?

      1. The IRS and a few obscure international agreements?

  15. The police give out a lot of tickets at bar closing time. Bars closing later cuts into their donut and coffee time or their nap time. Best to do it only on special occasions, we don’t want underweight tired officers!

  16. So we don’t trust federalism and the idea that local Wisconsin pols might know better than us how much drunk Wisconsinites should be trusted? They elected the local Wisconsin pols, didn’t they?

  17. I closed Wolski’s!

  18. Let’s see. Elitist behavior by and for the political elite. Crony capitalism for business owners. Something for everybody.


  19. Nothing good happens after midnight.

  20. Mobster Al Capone ran the booze business during prohibition only to be squeezed out by other more powerful mobsters called government who run it to this day.

  21. Last month I was at a restaurant for a party. The table behind mine was for the kids (including my daughter). They were served Pro Secco and no one said jack shit. We just made sure they had their little sips and moved on. Welcome to Montreal, Quebec.

    Meanwhile, whenever I’m in the States, which is often, I get carded. Same with my mother.

    She’s 77.


    1. Yeah, I got carded the other day. I just looked at the kid like he was an idiot, and he proceeded to ring me up.

      1. One restaurant operator explained to us – after we complained when they carded my father who was 74 at the time and not exactly in the best of health because it was just plain idiotic and with a shred of common sense – that inspectors come in to places and pretend to be clients only to nab them for not carding. In other words, they’re paranoid and apologized and after agreeing with us but that’s how things role for these establishments.

        I give my daughter a sip of wine every time we go to the restaurant and taught her that in the ‘old country’ you dip bread in it and made her taste that.

        All in peace.

        1. without a shred.

  22. Hopefully the dems will at least be good for business. I happen to know that when the Republicans were in Cleveland the locals, including the girls at the Crazy Horse, were very disappointed with the expected boost in income.

    1. Oh, Crazy *Horse.* Motley Crue should enunciate the words of their songs more clearly.

  23. Because then the Democratic conventioneers couldn’t feel special.

  24. The results are coming in from Nevada, and it looks like Bernie Sanders is buffing the Las Vegas strip shiny using Elizabeth Warren’s sad, sorry face.

    There is more than one reason why Elizabeth Warren is losing, but one of the big ones may be her performance in the Nevada debate. I maintain that Sanders didn’t only win in New Hampshire despite Warren making unsubstantiated allegations of social justice crimes; Sanders won at the expense of Warren because she made those allegations. Likewise, when the press applauded Warren for smearing every piece of shit she could find in Bloomberg’s face on stage at the Nevada debate, she may have actually been destroying herself by making all sorts of social justice allegations again.

    People are sick to death of social justice warriors–even in the Democratic party.

    1. Failed mayor pete collapses when it isnt a bunch of northern white people.

      1. It’s about unions.

        The Culinary Workers have their own private healthcare centers in Las Vegas, and they were afraid they’d lose that in Sanders Medicare for All plan. Anybody with private insurance in their right mind doesn’t want to give it up for Medicare–and that includes unionized casino workers.

        On the other hand, the union people are bunch of fucking socialists, and that’s what this is about. They don’t expect union employees to be treated like the rest of us–because Bernie is on their side.

        Ever heard the one about how the socialists always seem to run out of other people’s money?

        I don’t think the Culinary Workers are thinking about the big picture. Less than 10 years ago, they were reeling because what’s bad for consumer discretionary spending is awful for hotel workers in Las Vegas. I don’t think anywhere was hurting worse or longer than Las Vegas during the last recession. The health of the whole casino industry is a function of consumer discretionary spending elsewhere in the country, and I can’t imagine anything worse for consumer discretionary spending in the United States than Bernie Sanders, the Green New Deal, student debt forgiveness, and Medicare for All.

        1. ” With Biden having collapsed in the first two states, they held a press conference on February 13 announcing the union would make no endorsement. But that came only after several days of controversy designed to undermine Sanders. At issue is the Vermont senator’s proposal to expand Medicare to cover everyone in the country, guaranteeing health care to all—what wonks used to call “single-payer” health care.

          The union’s members in Nevada fought hard, in multiple strikes, to achieve a zero-deductible health plan financed through employer contributions to a fund jointly administered by union and employer trustees. Last week, Culinary circulated a leaflet among its membership claiming that the Sanders proposal would “end Culinary health care.” For workers who know what it took to win and what it takes to preserve their health fund, the message was unmistakable.

          The union members voted for Sanders, essentially, over the objections of their union.

      2. wypipo, am I right?

  25. Perhaps after seeing the Democratic debates, they decided no sober person could vote for any of these candidates.

    1. You beat me to that!

  26. If six people in Iran died of the coronavirus and the coronavirus kills 1% of the time, then there were probably about 600 people infected in Iran as of a few days ago.

    1. Waah, these math problems are getting scary.

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  29. I just want to take a moment to reflect on ‘food lawyer’ being an actual thing.

    1. He was involved in the famous case of “Who Stole the Tarts?”

      He filed habeas corpus petitions to open the pie which had the four and twenty blackbirds locked inside.

      1. Most controversially, he was hired to defend the hunters who killed Bambi’s mother.

        1. They paid his fee in tasty venison.

  30. Eliminating the mandatory closing time would be fine for a city whose bars were mostly confined to an entertainment district, maybe, but the problem with doing that in Milwaukee is that Milwaukee has tons of neighborhood bars. So keeping them open until 4:00 becomes a noise issue for those neighborhoods. They already do suspend the mandatory closure on New Years Eve but if you live near a bar then that would be tough to deal with year round.

    1. The state law does not have to over-ride local ordinances.

  31. Well, could it possibly be that the tourists will come in for a few days, pay a bunch of hotel, food, and booze taxes, and then leave while those pesky local citizens keep demanding services for their tax dollars?

  32. Also to make Democrats feel at home…legalize pickpocketing for the duration of the convention.

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  34. Special rights for some, treating people equally has become a lost concept.

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  38. I’ve read that traffic safety engineers recommend that bars stay open until 4 am in cities because it staggers (joke not intended) the number of drunks using the roads at 1 or 2 am. Very few people stay at bars until 4 am when they stay open. Of course, local officials ignore the advice of TSEs, many of whom support most speed limits being increased by 10 MPH.

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