An Alcohol License Review subcommittee decided to move forward with the creation of an entertainment district downtown, which would includes sections of State Street and University Avenue.
The district would concentrate police attention and alternate entertainment for students under the drinking age in central Madison to curb the prevalence of house parties.
Committee members said they hoped the district would be implemented quickly to avoid drawn-out opposition.
“We are working on a framework for an entertainment district focusing on encouraging and establishing an area with diverse entertainment venues and customers in a specific geographic area,” District 14 Alder Tim Bruer said.
An entertainment district would include bars, concert venues and restaurants, among other types of entertainment establishments. It would be under the regulations of the ALRC, which is working to create an area that is enjoyable to the public as well as safe for the public, committee chair Bruer said.
According to Bruer, the district would be developed in an area that already has a lot of police involvement as well as a number of licensed venues so that police could keep an eye on problem areas with the most alcohol-related violations. The Entertainment District would help to solve problems of overcrowding in bars, underage admittance to taverns, public disturbances and house parties, Bruer said.
“We are responding to what is already happening, not promoting a new area of entertainment,” committee member Stephanie Rearick said.
The committee is modeling their ideas after entertainment districts in Austin, Texas and Boston, Mass., Bruer said.
“The Entertainment District is where everyone could be together; we want to try to get those under the age away from house parties that cause more problems than they solve, ” Bruer said.
The committee is looking for ways to give establishments incentives to host more underage events as well as get rid of drink specials, Rearick said. She said bars do not want to have underage events, because they do not make as much money as they would if alcohol was sold. The only way a venue can currently have an 18-and-over event and still serve alcohol is if there are separate areas for the age groups, Rearick said.
Bruer said the committee wants to work with many different groups, including the University of Wisconsin and the Madison Police Department to make the Entertainment District a positive addition to the city.
According to Madison Police Sergeant Emil Quast, a large public-safety hazard exists when establishments that are legally considered restaurants stay open late and bring in entertainment while serving alcohol. Quast said it is a large problem, because anyone of any age can enter these venues, and the police see lots of issues with overcrowding and overserving. This problem is one that could be possibly solved with the creation of an entertainment district, Quast said.
Some University Health Services officials are concerned with what they say has been over-consumption of alcohol and have asked to see the committee take action to help regulate the quality of beverage service in the new Entertainment District, committee member Tom Garver said.
The committee will now draw up a plan for the Entertainment District, Garver said.
“We have to start somewhere, we need something to chew on and just work through it all until we have what we want,” Garver said.