Walker signs bill for Titletown liquor licenses

Richard Ryman
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Gov. Scott Walker signs a law Tuesday making more liquor licenses available for projects such as the Green Bay Packers' Titletown District. March 29, 2016.

The Green Bay Packers' Titletown District now has access to liquor licenses, if needed.

Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday signed a law making additional licenses available to municipalities across the state, although the bill was developed with the Titletown District in mind.

"This is the final step toward unleashing the power of this development," Walker said before signing the document in the Lambeau Field Atrium. "The Packers, probably more than any other team in the NFL, know the significance they have to this county."

The Titletown District is the Packers' commercial/residential/recreational development immediately west of Lambeau Field in Ashwaubenon. Anchors Hinterland Brewery and Lodge Kohler hotel do not require municipal liquor licenses because of their size, but future tenants, such as restaurants, might.

Class B licenses, which authorize the retail sale of liquor and wine, were issued to municipalities under a quota system and few remain available. In the late 1990s, the state added reserve Class B licenses to increase availability. Reserve licenses cost $10,000 versus $500 for standard Class B licenses (or $600 for a combination liquor/wine/beer license).

Paul Baniel, Green Bay Packers vice president of finance and administration, talks Tuesday before Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill creating additional liquor licenses for such projects as the Titletown District. March 29, 2016.

The new law allows communities to transfer up to three reserve licenses to nearby municipalities for a minimum of $10,000 each. There is no limit to the number of licenses a municipality can acquire or what they might be sold for. The license fee goes to the original issuer. The license stays with the new community, even if the business eventually closes, but can be sold back to the original issuer or any other municipality.

Two licenses for "premier economic development districts" will cost a minimum of $30,000 each. Such a district is a specified geographic area of no more than 40 acres and an assessed valuation increase of at least $20 million. The Titletown District is 35 acres and initially valued at more than $120 million, though that will increase as development progresses.

Ashwaubenon President Mike Aubinger said the village might free up cheaper licenses by reclassifying existing license holders. He said the village also will seek letters of intent that would be good for a couple of years from surrounding municipalities willing to sell licenses.

"It's another tool for the toolbox," said Paul Baniel, Packers vice president of finance and administration.

Rep. David Steffen, R-Howard, the bill's author, said nearly a dozen communities across the state look to take advantage of the new law. Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Allouez, a member of the Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District, was lead sponsor in the Senate.

Site preparation is underway at the Titletown District and construction is expected to begin during the next month. The three announced anchors are expected to be open by the beginning of the 2017 NFL season.

Contact and follow him on Twitter @RichRymanPG, onInstagram at rrymanpgor on Facebook at Richard Ryman-Press-Gazette. Or call him at (920) 431-8342.

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