With a city policy to restrict the number of bars downtown up for revision this fall, officials are looking for ways to allow new 18-plus entertainment options, such as a movie theater or live music venues, to open within reach of campus.
Five years ago, city officials passed the Alcohol License Density Ordinance in order to restrict the number of bars that could open up in the immediate downtown area. Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said the ordinance which originally faced heavy opposition from college students was proposed to reduce alcohol consumption and improve safety.
The City Council voted to extend ALDO until the end of 2013, allowing city officials more time to determine how they want to change the original ordinance, according to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4. He added the extension will also allow students to participate in the discussion because the ordinance affects their off-campus entertainment options.
“One of the reasons the law was extended was so students can be involved and participate in the discussion on something that really affects them,” Verveer said.
He said changes to ALDO would likely involve zoning. Under the potential changes, State Street would still be fairly restrictive on new bars opening, whereas other areas east of the Capitol would become more lenient, he said.
Resnick added he opposes including heavy restrictions on licenses in the recommendations because of the issues it would cause for already existing businesses.
“Right now I would say some of the restrictions would essentially be long-term death warrants for bars,” Resnick said. “In particular, Mondays and some of the other bar establishments on State Street would be forced to change their business model if this went in and was passed.”
Resnick said the purpose of some of the current restrictions in ALDO was the city’s hope to encourage other forms of entertainment downtown. He worked alongside Verveer to administer entertainment licenses. This license allows new bars to open if it provides a unique entertainment model, such as live music, he said.
Alcohol Policy Coordinator Mark Woulf said he was in favor of increasing other forms of entertainment, especially for 18-plus patrons, which is lacking in the downtown area. He said possibilities being discussed are to bring more live music, comedy, a video arcade and a movie theater to the downtown area.
“There should be more offered to those 18 to 20,” Woulf said. ”I would like to see more supervised environments where there would be increased safety than, for example, a house party, regardless if there is alcohol being sold.”
Resnick said, unfortunately, due to restrictions on this license from the Alcohol License Review Committee, not a single applicant has been received.
Woulf said the effect of the safety incentive put in place by ALDO can be seen in a pattern of less licenses as opposed to less taverns. In spite of ALDO, new alcohol vending establishments have opened, Woulf said, which are mostly new restaurants that can be open until bar time if they choose.
Verveer said bar time violence has decreased in the past few years, and statistics show crime in the area has gone down. However, he added it is impossible to determine whether this is a result of ALDO.
Recommendations made by committee members are currently being reviewed by the city attorney’s office. Woulf said the final draft will be complete by Oct. 1, and final decisions will be made October and November.