The city’s bars will now lose points for alcohol policy violations in a system similar to having demerits on a driver’s license under a new ordinance.
City of Madison Alcohol Policy Coordinator Mark Woulf crafted the newest version of the ordinance that dictates the city’s policy, which was passed by City Council Tuesday, Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said.
Resnick said the council hopes to create a more fair balance of determining which bars are in violation of city liquor laws.
Currently, the city demerits licenses with capacity violations and selling alcohol to people who are underage, he said.
However, under the new system, Resnick said demerits will be calculated on a point system with certain thresholds to determine consequences.
When a bar accumulates a certain number of points, it will then have to come before the Alcohol Licensing Review Committee, Ald. Larry Palm, District 12, said. He said the committee could take any action from simply having a conversation with the bar owners or managers to suspending their liquor licenses altogether.
Palm said the city is trying to have a more secure position when they ask bar owners to give up their licenses. They want to be able to provide details as to exactly why licenses are being taken away, he said.
“Liquor laws are heavily controlled. We want to make sure we have specific guidelines, so when something happens, people know the expectations,” Palm said.
Still, Resnick said the new ordinance does not change the punishments currently in place but instead allows the city to better monitor good operators versus bad operators.
Through the clarification of the points system, Resnick said the city is able to more quickly recognize businesses who are irresponsible with their liquor licenses. He said this new way of tracking allows the city to operate more “nimbly.”
Resnick said the system will be similar to how police keep track of driving violations through a driver license.
With the new revisions, there will be follow-through in multi-year periods, Resnick said. This is one more tool for the Alcohol License and Review Committee to monitor different situations and be proactive in addressing violations early, he said.
Resnick said bars that may never have come before the committee can now be called to appear if they have a certain number of demerit points. Problems can be taken care of before the situation turns negative, he said.
Resnick said he does not think the point system will hurt the liquor industry in any way, but will put the responsibility on the bar operators.
“If you look at the bars who cause the most issues, it all stems from whether or not an operator is following the rules,” Resnick said.
Following the rules includes having the right staff and maintaining control of their establishment, he added.
There was unanimous support for the ordinance among City Council, with members expressing their hopes that the new guidelines will help the city become more efficient in addressing demerits on liquor licenses, Resnick said.