Changes in city law could be on the way for downtown bars and entertainment venues, but businesses will need to wait an extra five months before the city officially changes the downtown Alcohol License Density Ordinance.
Alcohol License Review Committee member Mike Verveer, the District 4 alder, said the sunset period for the city’s ALDO will start in March 2011 instead of October 5 to allow for more deliberation on changes that could come to the current law.
Verveer said the ALDO subcommittee made the decision at an August meeting, saying new language for a reformed ordinance must take more time to endure the city approval process. He added the October 5 starting date for the sunset would have conflicted with holidays, rushing any possible decisions.
“Given the amount of issues we still need to come to a resolution on [...] we thought it’s better [to] be safe than sorry, and there seems to be overwhelming support to extend ALDO,” Verveer said.
Ald. Julia Kerr, District 13, said she hopes to expand the density district south of its current Regent Street border for the ordinance’s next incarnation. She said there have been persistent concerns about the density of alcohol licenses on both Park Street and Regent Street.
Interest groups from both the downtown and campus communities plan to advocate specific changes to ALDO. One of the most prominent, the Associated Students of Madison, has noted its desire for more underage entertainment options downtown.
Sam Polstein, ASM’s current chair of Legislative Affairs, said he plans to lobby for more exemptions for entertainment venues providing live music or movies downtown. He added ASM has not passed a formal resolution endorsing a specific change to ALDO.
“I would like [ALDO] to have more exemptions so the ALRC can look at each case individually,” Polstein said. “At the same time, ASM and Leg Affairs definitely don’t want to see bars popping up everywhere; we really want to see variety.”
ALRC member Mark Woulf said the extension of the sunset could give UW students a better opportunity to participate in the debate surrounding ALDO.
Both Woulf and Verveer said they also hope to focus on bringing more under-21 entertainment venues, which have partly been stymied by the current language. Verveer cited the recently-embattled Sconnie Bar proposal as an example of the type of venue considered more allowable under new ALDO rules.
Woulf said he would prefer more specific definitions of the type of entertainment options offered downtown. He added he worries the ordinance’s current language restricts business from developing downtown.
“I don’t think that was the original intention of ALDO,” Woulf said. “Obviously we want to limit the density but we don’t want to limit the business in general.”