Alcohol License Review Committee chair Ald. Tim Bruer is proposing that downtown taverns drop their drink specials in order to combat binge drinking in Madison at UW.
City and UW officials blame drink specials for many of UW students’ drunkenness and injuries.
Bruer wants to give the downtown area an “entertainment district status,” which would require downtown bars to end their long-standing drink specials.
Entertainment districts create a uniform set of rules for a given geographic region.
Bruer said if tavern owners agree to drop their specials used for competition at the same time, they will feel more comfortable with the proposal.
LaMarr Billups, assistant to Chancellor John Wiley, said that the entertainment district idea concurs with the university’s crackdown on binge drinking.
“We’ve asked establishments to adopt voluntary license restrictions or conditions, among them that no drink specials will be offered. Many of the bars don’t want to do it unless other bars refrain from doing it,” Billups said.
An entertainment district would also create greater capacity incentives for bars’ alcohol-free entertainment venues.
Bruer said that he believes an entertainment district would combat many of the alcohol-related crimes and problems downtown.
It would create “a safer, more responsible environment in those areas that are currently making large volumes of police calls,” Bruer said.
However, not all of Bruer’s colleagues agree with his proposal.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, completely rejects Bruer’s idea.
“This proposal is totally outrageous,” Verveer said. “I find it hard to believe that the city has the power to regulate prices or distribution of products.”
Verveer said that he feels there are many other ways to prevent binge drinking.
“Even if the city did have the power to regulate drink specials, it would be a wrong-headed approach to the drinking issues that exist downtown,” Verveer said.
He believes offering students more alternatives to bars and parties is a better step towards preventing binge drinking.
Verveer also said that if a group of bar owners on the same block or street agrees to pull their ads in local papers and end their drink specials, he would have no problem with that.
“But, for the city to set prices and ban specials and happy hours is ridiculous,” Verveer said.
A new panel is being created to discuss alcohol issues on campus. Ald. Kent Palmer, District 15, will chair the ALRC’s subcommittee on downtown alcohol issues and policy.
Bruer will introduce the proposed legislation when the City Attorney’s Office drafts it.