PORT WASHINGTON, Wis. – A bar owner's attempt to avoid wasting leftover beer got him a sharp reprimand and a $172 ticket. Ray Wendt used a Miller Lite tap to serve Coors Light. He said he told customers they were drinking Colorado beer, not that from nearby Milwaukee.
"I didn't think nothing was tragic about it," Wendt said.
But police and state inspectors disagreed, fining him and sending him a letter that called the mislabeling "a major violation."
Wendt's American Legion bar normally serves Miller Lite.
But a wedding party asked for Coors Light for their reception earlier this month. Wendt ordered it, then found the tap handle he was given didn't fit his dispenser. He substituted a Miller Lite handle.
"It's not like I was pouring different liquor into a bottle," he said. "The Coors and Miller Lite cost the same."
The next morning, he served leftover Coors Light to his regulars.
"I said it was Coors Light, not Miller," he said. "I didn't lie to nobody."
He took a few days off and returned to work May 8, when two representatives from the state Department of Revenue and a Port Washington police officer conducted the annual inspection of his bar. They found the Miller Lite handle still connected to the Coors Light barrel.
State and city laws prohibit bar owners from dispensing beer from another brand's tap. The police officer ticketed Wendt, and the state sent him a warning.
Port Washington Police Chief Richard Thomas said Wendt has a well-run bar, but "the statute is pretty clear. You can't do this."
"It was an honest mistake," protested Wendt, who plans to fight the ticket.