Wisconsin Liquor Laws

Please be aware that this document is not intended to provide legal advice. It is a guide only. It is believed to be accurate as of the time of publishing. Liquor laws concerning the sale and service of alcohol vary by state, county, city and municipality.

A general rule is that the strictest regulation prevails. Local laws may be stricter than state laws, but may not be more lenient. For the latest and most accurate resource on Wisconsin alcohol laws, consult the Wisconsin Department of Revenue website.

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Wisconsin Department of Revenue Approved

Wisconsin Department of Revenue
Alcohol & Tobacco Enforcement
PO Box 8933
Madison, WI. 53708-8933
Phone: 608-266-2776  fax: 608-261-6240 

General Wisconsin Regulations

What is the legal drinking age in Wisconsin?

Twenty-one years of age. This is also the age at which a person can be on licensed premises. There are some exceptions, which we will discuss below.

Can children be in a bar with their parents?

Yes. Persons under age 21 may be on licensed premises, and can be sold and allowed to drink alcohol beverages, if they are with their parents, legal guardians, or spouses, as long as those persons are of legal age; but this is at the discretion of the licensee.

A lot of fake IDs are out there. How do I protect myself against being fooled?

Become familiar with current valid driver's licenses and IDs. Compare the questioned ID with a standard, like your own ID. Be suspicious if it looks like the card was altered or tampered with, if it is discolored, or if any of the letters, logos, or photos are poorly applied or partially missing. See Publication 302, Wisconsin Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco Laws for Retailers, for ID checking guidelines.

Is it a serious violation to make a fake ID?

Yes. It is a crime punishable by fines and jail time. If you are caught making and selling a fake ID, it is a felony in Wisconsin, punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and 3 years in prison. The Department of Revenue has a vigorous program to detect and deter ID counterfeiting. If you know someone who makes and sells fake IDs, please contact the Alcohol & Tobacco Enforcement Unit at (608) 266-2776.

You said that underage persons can work at licensed premises. Does this mean any age?

No. They must be over age 14. In addition, they must not be serving, selling, dispensing, or giving away alcohol beverages unless they are at least 18 years of age. If over age 18 and they do not have their own operator's license, they must be under the immediate supervision by the licensee, agent, adult member of the licensee's immediate family, or a person with an operator's license.

Are there any restrictions for underage persons who are musicians or other performers?

If the performer is 16 or 17, he or she may perform on Friday, Saturday, or any other day not followed by a school day. If the performance is in a hall rented to celebrate a special event like a wedding, holiday, birthday, or anniversary, the underage performer may work until midnight on Sunday. There are no such restrictions for performers over 18.

Can I get into trouble if somebody I serve goes out and injures or kills somebody?

While there is a heavy moral burden in such a situation, Wisconsin does not have a "Dram Shop" law making you responsible for mayhem caused by persons you serve, as long as they are of legal drinking age. However, if they are minors (under age 18), you may be convicted of a felony, punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and 7 1/2 years in jail.

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