MADISON, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) – This summer, bars and restaurants in and around Milwaukee hope to make some big bucks from visitors during the Democratic National Convention.
But the window of opportunity to make money is going to depend on the State Legislature.
On their final day of voting on legislation for the year, the State Assembly made last-minute tweaks Thursday to a proposal allowing bars to stay open until 4 a.m. during the convention with the hopes of addressing concerns raised by some senators earlier this week.
If those last-minute tweaks don't satisfy the Senate, the bill will die since the Assembly won't be back to vote on any more changes.
Changes to the Assembly bill come as some senators question why bars could be allowed to cash in on the DNC but not other events.
“Just because I'm a Republican, and this is a Democratic convention, doesn't mean that my money is red and the Democratic money is blue,” State Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander), who authored the legislation, said. “Everybody's money is green.”
Swearingen wants to allow bars to stay open until 4 a.m. during the four nights of the convention, which will be held July 13-16 at Fiserv Forum, just like Ohio and Pennsylvania did when they hosted national conventions in 2016.
“Our goal here is to make sure everybody spends their money and has a great time in Wisconsin enjoying our hospitality, and when they leave they leave with no money left, but some great memories of their time here in Wisconsin, so that's what we're trying to get done for our bars and restaurants in the Milwaukee and greater Milwaukee area,” Swearingen said.
Right now, Wisconsin bars must close by 2 a.m. on weekdays and 2:30 a.m. on weekends.
The Senate also brought up concerns about a potential spike in drunk driving.
“One of the things we took out of the Senate is that they had some heartburn over the fact that it was statewide bar closing hours, so we are trying to work with the Senate and bring that down to the original 14 counties around Milwaukee that were in the bill originally,” Swearingen said.
Cities and towns in Kenosha, Racine, Walworth, Rock, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Jefferson, Dane, Ozaukee, Washington, Dodge, Columbia, Sheboygan, and Fond Du Lac counties that want to allow bars to stay open late would still need to approve it.
The Assembly passed the proposal 85-12 Thursday, sending it to the Senate.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said the later bar time would be great for the state's economy.
“The DNC is something that is good for the state of Wisconsin, right? I think it is going to be fantastic for the state of Wisconsin to be able to see how crazy Bernie Sanders is, how the people that support him are clearly out of step with reality, and there's a lot of people in the state who, once they hear him speak, are going to say 'I need a drink,'” Vos told reporters during a Thursday morning press conference.
The Senate, which still needs to approve the bill, is expected to meet one more time in March before adjourning for the rest of the year.