Wisconsin’s amended liquor legislation made some positive changes but major problems still exist. Recently Wisconsin amended SB 268 so that revocation of a common carrier’s permit after two mistakes is no longer the standard. The new legislation changes the mandatory “shall” standard to the “may” discretionary standard.

However, even with this positive amendment, this law as written still targets the American wine industry. The amendments failed to address a major problem, the law’s attack on fulfillment houses.

The amendment provides relief for common carriers but still leaves fulfillment houses subject to revocation for two mistakes. If a fulfillment house ships for a winery on a permit expired by a day, more than two times, its permit is subject to mandatory revocation. The amendments to the statute do not change this status quo.

Why this is important

When we were sold by some Big Wine interest groups why fulfillment house licensing in Tennessee was necessary, we were told that if fulfillment houses were not licensed, there would be a ban on shipping wine from fulfillment houses. We were told the ban would decimate winery shipping into Tennessee, and it seems there was evidence that many winery shipments into Tennessee originated from fulfillment houses.

“We believe that, conservatively, over 60 percent of [wine] shipped into Tennessee comes from licensed fulfillment houses,” noted Jeff Carroll who was at Avalara at the time. [1]

So obviously, the presence of fulfillment houses is paramount to the winery shipping industry. I don’t know the numbers for Wisconsin like I do for Tennessee. But I am sure the number of wines shipped from fulfillment houses into Wisconsin is significant.

So, it begs the question, if fulfillment houses are such an integral part of the marketplace for winery shipping, why are they getting short served in the amendment process?

If their presence was so important in Tennessee that we needed to license them to save them, then why aren’t there amendments to do the same thing in Wisconsin?


The Wisconsin law is bad from the start and the licensing of fulfillment houses is not only unconstitutional but a bad idea. If the fulfillment house licensing schemes take hold all over the country, smaller fulfillment houses will leave the business and the barrier to entry will become too high for others. We are left with consolidation, which the Treasury Report told us the obvious, consolidation is bad for the industry and the smallest players get hurt the most. With resulting higher cost to store and ship wine, some small American wineries may not be able to get adequate representation from fulfillment houses or be able to afford it.

The Wisconsin law goes one better, not only does it license fulfilment houses, it pretty much legislates them out of existence.

As of writing this today, I don’t see an amendment online that would provide a fix for the fulfillment houses, and if the fix never comes, DTC shipping will become severely curtailed in Wisconsin and with it the ability of the American wine industry to grow. So, if fulfillment houses were important enough to save through licensing, they are certainly important enough to save through amending!


[1] https://www.winespectator.com/articles/tennessee-legislators-aim-to-limit-winery-direct-shipping-sales