‘Every little bit helps’: Wisconsin bars take advantage of cocktails to go law

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin bars celebrated the first day of to go cocktails Sunday, following Governor Tony Evers signing the bi-partisan bill into law Friday.

Under the law, businesses with a Class B license can now sell liquor to go – the same way they can with food and non-alcoholic drinks.

“It provides for everyone a way to pivot and have new opportunities,” said Brian Bartels, Co-Owner of Madison’s Settle Down Tavern. 

Bartels opened Settle Down Tavern in May of 2020 – two months into the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s been an interesting up and down roller coaster ride of sorts,” he said. “But we’re lucky to still be here.”

He says the option to sell liquor to go will be a helpful boost in revenue, but also give customers a chance to experiment with custom craft cocktails they wouldn’t normally be able to purchase ingredients for at a store.

Tavern League President Chris Marsicano says the law is a win for an industry hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

Every little bit helps,” he said. “It’s going to put five or six hundred dollars back into the bank account of people who haven’t had a real paycheck in over a year.”

Still, Marsicano says it’s not the only thing restaurants need to survive. While more financial help is needed in recovering from revenue lost to the pandemic, he says the new law is a good place to start.

Whatever side of the isle you’re on, hospitality industry is a bipartisan issue,” he said. With the lockdowns especially Madison, Dane and Milwaukee, it’s been extremely hard on the hospitality industry. I think we’ve been hit harder than most, and I think our legislators realize that, and knew we needed this help.”

Bartels says he’s hopeful adding this revenue stream can continue to help support Settle Down Tavern until they can welcome back customers at a full capacity.

Literally, the word survive is one of the most essential words we’ve learned in the last year of COVID,” Bartels said. “This is a great opportunity for businesses to survive.”