Court Ruling on Liquor License Premises Descriptions – How General can the Premises of a Liquor License Description Be

In a unanimous decision in Wisconsin Dolls v. Town of Dell Prairie, the Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with Wisconsin Dolls LLC that a description of the “premises” for an alcohol license which states something along the lines of “all 8 acres of the resort” is sufficient. While the court was clear that in granting the initial license, the Town could have reviewed the description of the premises and possible sought clarification, under Wisconsin law, there is no requirement to be more specific than “all 8 acres of the resort.”

The circuit court had sided with the Town of Dell Prairie’s attempt reduce the premises to only the main bar building, and the appellate court had agreed, though on different grounds. The appellate court had held that the previous licenses had been void because of the vagueness of the description of the premises. But the Supreme Court reversed, stating that a description such as “all 8 acres” was sufficient, and the time for a municipality to question such a description is before granting the license in the first place, not at a subsequent renewal. Justice Prosser stated, “Towns may attach conditions to an alcohol beverages license, including limitations to the described premises, when the license is initially granted.” But once a license is granted, the rules for non-renewal are well defined by statute, and do not include a town’s desire to reduce the premises because they had not carefully reviewed the license when it was initially granted. Town’s do not have the authority to unilaterally modify the description of the premises. Although the holding and language in the case was specific to towns, the application of the holding should apply to villages and cities as well.