Can a municipality refuse to
issue an alcohol beverage license because the applicant has failed to
pay a fine, tax, assessment, fee or other debt by owed by the applicant
to the municipality?
Yes. State law specifically authorizes a
municipality to "refuse to issue any license [except those listed] or
permit to a person who has not paid an overdue forfeiture resulting from
a violation of an ordinance of the municipality." Wis. Stat. sec.
66.0115(1). However, the municipality may not refuse to issue a license
for nonpayment of a forfeiture if the license applicant is appealing the
imposition of the forfeiture. Wis. Stat. sec. 66.0115(1).
State law also provides sufficient
general alcohol license regulatory authority for a municipality to enact
an ordinance that prohibits the issuance of an alcohol beverage license
(retail or operator) where the applicant owes municipal taxes,
assessments or other fees. See Wis. Stat. sec. 125.10(1). However, such
an ordinance must apply to all municipal licenses, not just
alcohol beverage licenses. Moreover, alcohol licenses cannot be withheld
for failure to pay taxes or other debts owed to the state or federal
government. Tavern League v. Madison, 131 Wis. 2d 477, 389 N.W.2d 54 (Ct. App. 1986).
When an initial license is withheld
for failure to pay municipal taxes, an outstanding forfeiture or similar
grounds, the municipality should give the applicant notice and an
opportunity to rebut the charge. If a renewal license is withheld, then
the procedures for the nonrenewal of the license set forth in chapter
125 would apparently have to be followed. See Tavern League v. Madison, supra.