Unlike most other states, alcohol control and licensing is mostly a local and municipal responsibility in Wisconsin. Because of this, local residents have the authority to improve their community's alcohol environment. Research shows us what works to reduce alcohol misuse. Wisconsin's local leaders can put many of those lessons into practice in our cities, villages and towns.
Use the Alcohol Policy Glossary (PDF) to help you navigate the terminology. In this section you'll find local tools that might be right for your community.
Not sure where to get started? Use the questions below for guidance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are repeat drunk drivers Wisconsin's most significant alcohol problem?
Almost three-quarters of people cited for OWI/drunk driving do not receive a second citation within five years. Drunk driving catches our attention because it occurs in public, is covered by the media, and may involve innocent victims. But the binge drinking that results in any OWI citations is also a factor in sexual assault, fatal falls, fights, drownings, snowmobile and ATV crashes, plus a range of other serious injuries or death.1
About 24% of Wisconsin’s residents age 18 or older report binge drinking about once a week. Binge drinking is Wisconsin’s most significant alcohol problem, drunk driving is just one consequence of it.2
Are more locations serving and selling alcohol always a sign of economic growth?
Not always. Research conducted over decades in many nations indicates that an over-concentration of alcohol outlets will result in higher rates of alcohol-related disorder even when all the licensees obey the law. When a cluster or over-concentration of alcohol outlets develops, local law enforcement costs usually increase.3
There will be variations in the type of disorder and scope of the problem. In Wisconsin, an alcohol license, once granted, cannot be revoked, nonrenewed, or suspended without cause and alcohol-related disorder will occur even if every licensee is compliant. It is easy for a community to allow a cluster to develop and resolving the problem may take years.
How large is "one-serving" of alcohol? I never measure and I don't see bartenders measure.
You may be surprised to learn that what we often think of as one beer or one glass of wine may be multiple servings depending on its size.
- 12 oz serving of beer
- 5 oz of wine
- 1.5 oz of distilled spirits - remember some mixed drinks call for multiple spirits
Oversize wine glasses and beer steins, plus "special" recipes for mixed drinks often contain multiple servings.
Low risk drinking is defined as:
- For women: 3 or fewer drinks in one day and a maximum of 7 servings in a week.
- For men: 4 or fewer drinks in one day and a maximum of 14 drinks in a week.
Binge drinking is four or more drinks for a woman or five or more drinks for a man on a single occasion.4
How can the cost of binge drinking affect me if I don't drink?
Binge drinking costs governments nearly $4 billion dollars annually while alcohol tax revenues generated just over $60 million in the same year. Government entitites at the federal, state, and local levels spend $1.6 billion annually on bringe drinking-related costs. These costs are passed on to all taxpayers.5
My neighbors talk about preventing underage drinking. Isn't that a parent's job?
Youth are influenced by many factors including the availability of alcohol, price, alcohol advertising, their friends, siblings and of course, parents and other adults. Parents are just one influence out of many, in our increasingly networked world, preventing underage drinking is everyone's job.
Reducing youth access to alcohol is the single most effective way to prevent underage drinking. Here are ways you can help:
- Youth pilfer alcohol from easily accessible refrigerators. Do you have an unlocked beer 'fridge in a garage or outbuilding? Do you keep alcohol stored in an unlocked location that your children and their friends have seen, such as a home bar?
- Young adults may not be fully aware of the legal or social consequences for buying alcohol for younger friends. Take a few minutes to make sure they understand the risks. Providing alcohol to youth is a serious offense that will follow them into adulthood and cause damage to their health and safety, as well as future career prospects
- Twice yearly alcohol age compliance checks help retailers keep their staff trained and aware of the need to check a buyer's ID every time alcohol is sold or served. Find out if your community conducts alcohol age compliance checks twice a year keeping a record of both the location and servers cited.6
- 1 Moberg, P., Kuo, D. "Intoxicated Driver Program-2: Analysis of Arrests, IDP Compliance and 3 Year Recidivism" Prepared for: Intoxicated Driver Program, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Bureau of Prevention Treatment and Recovery, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Population Health Institute, 2019.
- 2 Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Adult Binge Drinking in Wisconsin. https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/publications/p00984.pdf, accessed April 20, 2020.
- 3 The Effectiveness of Limiting Alcohol Outlet Density as a Means of Reducing Excessive Alcohol Consumption and Alcohol-Related Harms, the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, Guide to Community Preventive Services. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, December 2009.
- 4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alcohol Use and Your Health, https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm, accessed April 20, 2020.
- 5 Linnan, S., Paltzer, J., Skalitzky, E., The Burden of Binge Drinking in Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute., School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin, October 2019.
- 6 Institute of Medicine 2004. Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/10729.