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Supreme Court to issue IC Willy's decision Wednesday


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court will release its decision today on a Wausau case that has municipalities all over the state watching. It’s the Thomas Nowell vs. City of Wausau case. Most people know it as the IC Willy’s liquor license battle.

The city of Wausau voted to deny Thomas Nowell a renewal of his liquor license due to complaints about noise and behavior problems at the now-closed nightclub.

So far, a Marathon County judge ruled in favor of the city’s denial of that license. Nowell appealed that ruling and won. The City of Wausau appealed that ruling to the State Supreme Court.

City Attorney Anne Jacobson says the Supreme Court could do several things, which means they don’t have to simply choose one party or the other to win the case. “They can reverse the Court of Appeals entirely. The could affirm the Court of Appeals entirely, or they could do something in between and affirm in part or in whole or reverse in part or in whole with further instructions and remand it back to the circuit court for additional testimony or hearings.”

Jacobsen has no idea how the Supreme Court is going to rule on the case, but says if Nowell is successful, he could not just have a liquor license issued to him immediately. “If he were ultimately successful, and he were found by a court that he was entitled to keep his license or it should be renewed, the city would have to provide a license to him, but only if he has a premises that would be tied to that license.”

The former IC Willy’s nightclub has been torn down, and a new Kwik Trip convenience store is nearly completed in that location on Kent Street just off Grand Avenue.

The city attorney is hoping the Supreme Court reverses the Appeals Court’s decision so this issue is settled for once and for all. “If the Supreme Court says we’re going to reverse the Court of Appeals and then, in essence, agree with the circuit court decision, affirming that, and that the city rightfully followed all of the processes properly and had a right to non-renew his license, I think it’s done and over.”

Several other municipalities in Wisconsin filed briefs with the Supreme Court supporting the Wausau position, since this decision will impact every municipality’s ability to revoke or choose not to renew liquor licenses.

(The interview with Anne Jacobson before the Supreme Court decision can be heard on our website, here.)