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Underage Drinking Laws

Underage Drinking Laws in Wisconsin

Approved by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC)



Underage drinking is a huge problem nationwide. It's important for Wisconsin business owners, managers, and employees who plan to serve or sell alcohol to stay alert and informed in order to protect their business from breaking the law, and to prevent minors from drinking illegally.

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Underage Persons in Drinking Establishments

In Wisconsin, just like the rest of the U.S. , it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol. In addition, the state has very specific regulations when it comes to allowing underage patrons to enter certain businesses that hold liquor licenses.

According to Wisconsin law, anyone under the age of 21 may enter an establishment that is licensed to sell alcohol when accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or spouse who is of legal drinking age. If an underage person is NOT accompanied by any of the above, and they are not there as an employee, resident, or for a valuable service offered by the business —such as bowling or dining— there are restrictions on where they can enter.

Businesses that hold a Class B liquor license need to be strict in preventing a minor from entering any area that is designated for drinking alcohol. It's safest to err on the side of caution and keep underage patrons separate from alcohol sales.

Sales and Service of Alcoholic Beverages to Underage Persons

According to Wisconsin law, anyone under the age of 21 cannot be sold or served alcohol, unless they are accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or spouse over the legal drinking age (Sec. 125.07(1), Wis. Stats.). So, for example, if an 18-year-old is celebrating his or her birthday with their parents and friends at your bar or restaurant, you can legally serve them alcohol. Otherwise, they will need proper identification proving they are of age to purchase alcoholic beverages.

Possession of Alcohol Beverages by Underage Persons

Having an alcoholic drink in their hands or on their person is also restricted for anyone under the age of 21. An underage person is forbidden from possessing alcoholic beverages unless they are accompanied by their parent, a legal guardian, or a spouse over the age of 21. But it's valuable for business owners to know that employees are exempt from this rule.

Other Laws Relating to Underage Persons

Remember, anyone under the age of 21 cannot purchase or drink alcohol without the supervision and consent of certain adults of legal drinking ages — primarily those who are legally responsible for that minor. This means, that anyone who appears to be under age of 21 must be prepared to show identification to the vendor. It is illegal for an underage drinker to present a fake ID in an attempt to pass themselves off as over 21.

In addition, it's against the law in Wisconsin for anyone to have or to drink alcoholic beverages on a school campus that does not exceed grade level 12. Also, drinking in a vehicle either owned or rented by a school for use during a school activity is not allowed unless written permission is granted by an administrator of the school.

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Penalties for Violations

Fines related to underage drinking can start at $250 and increase quickly. For example, if a business owner or employee allows an unaccompanied underage person into an area of their business designated specifically for alcohol sales, they could face a fine of $500. The fines aren't limited to the business either, the underage person could face a fine of $250-$500, as well as suspension of their driver's license and possible assignment to a work program.

Anyone caught selling alcohol to someone under the age of 21 who is not accompanied by an adult of legal drinking age will be charged $500 and could face up to 30 days in jail. If this is a second offense within 30 months, the vendor could face up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. And that's not all—the liquor license of a business caught selling alcohol to a minor could be suspended for 3 days if this is a second violation within 12 months, up to 10 days if another violation is committed with 12 months, and 15-30 days if another violation is committed within one year of the 3 previous offenses.

Selling alcohol to someone who is underage is a huge financial risk for the seller or the business owner. Learn more about Wisconsin drinking laws and penalties by enrolling in a Seller Server Wisconsin Responsible Beverage Server Training Course. This state-mandated course will prepare you for all the responsibilities that come with serving or selling alcohol in Wisconsin. You'll be completely prepared to sell or serve alcohol responsibly.