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MADISON - Barn owners who host wedding ceremonies and receptions won't be required to obtain liquor licenses under the administration of Gov. Tony Evers. 

Evers' decision — made clear Friday — provides clarity to a longstanding debate between those who operate wedding venues on farmland and restaurant and bar owners who say all wedding venues should be treated the same under state law if alcohol is consumed on their premises.  

Barn owners and free-market conservatives have argued the venues are private places and should not be subject to regulations applied to businesses whose model hinges on selling alcohol. 

Until Friday, Evers had not indicated whether he would ask Department of Revenue officials to require such wedding venues to obtain liquor licenses, which would have changed the department's past practices.

"DOR has a longstanding position on this issue," Evers' spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We are not supporting a change."

RELATED: Tony Evers seeks to dismiss lawsuit over whether wedding barns should get liquor licenses

Baldauff's comments come a day after Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul asked a judge to throw out a lawsuit brought by the conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty on behalf of two barn owners.

Their effort to have the suit dismissed didn't include an opinion about the question the legal challenge sought to answer. 

WILL president and chief counsel Rick Esenberg on Friday said, "We trust that this matter will promptly be resolved in a manner that provides wedding barn owners and couples with the certainty that they can continue with their business and plans for special events.”

A spokesman for the Tavern League of Wisconsin, which has pushed lawmakers to require wedding barn owners to be subject to the same requirements as other wedding venues, did not  respond to a request for comment. 

RELATED: Wisconsin lawmakers won't settle debate on liquor licenses for barn wedding venues

Spokesman Scott Stenger has said that "the public expects and requires that those that have alcohol follow the law" and that his members comply with state laws and shouldn't be the only ones who are licensed if alcohol is served in both types of establishments. 

A panel of lawmakers convened in 2018 to study enforcement of alcohol-related laws in Wisconsin opted not to pass legislation that would specifically address the question after former Attorney General Brad Schimel issued an informal opinion saying wedding barn venues must obtain liquor licenses. 

Rep. Rob Swearingen, R-Rhinelander, chairman of the committee and former president of the Tavern League of Wisconsin, said in November the analysis released by Schimel in the weeks before he left office was enough to push the Department of Revenue to changes its enforcement practices.  

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