By M.D. Kittle
As lobbyists and lawmakers consider tightening up what some distributors have described as the "Wild West" of Wisconsin's three-tier codes and laws, meet William Glass - the face of Wisconsin's archaic and restrictive alcoholic beverage regulatory system.
Glass, a Marine Corps veteran turned entrepreneur, nearly lost it all in a trying battle with state regulators.
In his pursuit of his version of the American dream, owning an Eau Claire-based craft brewery, Glass said he and his wife contemplated dissolving their marriage in order to save his business.
It wouldn't have mattered.
Nothing short of severing custody of his kids would have appeased state regulators in their reading of what many see as a draconian Prohibition Era law that has latched a lock on the free market and small business in the name of stopping monopolies.
"It's pretty disgusting but, unfortunately, that's the situation we found ourselves in," Glass said.
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue, charged with enforcing the law that established the three-tier system of distributing alcohol, says the law is the law.
"State statute is clear on the separation of production, distribution, and retail sale of alcoholic beverages," Nicole Anspach, spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue, told MacIver News Service in an email Monday. In short, the law prohibits brewery owners and other manufacturers of alcoholic beverages from having "any direct or indirect interest" in licensed establishments selling booze. At least Chapter 25 of the statute "contains numerous provisions which prohibit relationships between the tiers."
But Glass says the department took "indirect interest" to an extreme level.
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