The Alcohol License Review Subcommittee is hosting a public hearing to discuss alcohol issues and solutions Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in Grainger Hall.
The ALRC subcommittee has made proposals to address excessive drinking in Madison. Subcommittee recommendations include regulating drink specials, photographing detox patients, forming a zoned entertainment district, increasing focus on over-serving and emphasizing alcohol-free venues.
The subcommittee will also confront chronic alcohol abuse and third-party use of licensed establishments at the hearing.
Subcommittee chair Ald. Kent Palmer, District 15, said efforts to regulate drink specials and over-serving could curb the likelihood of dangerous incidences resulting from excessive drinking.
“The motive of drink specials is to bring people to the bar during slow times and drink large amounts of alcohol,” Palmer said. “People who consume large amounts of alcohol have a greater chance of creating domestic disturbance, vehicular mayhem and sexual assault.”
At the hearing, the subcommittee also plans to discuss discouraging chronic alcohol abusers from purchasing alcohol in an effort to direct alcoholics toward treatment and avoiding downtown panhandling.
ALRC member Bill Cosh said panhandling by chronic alcohol abusers on State Street is often ignored and in need of attention.
“There is a large enough residential population downtown that this is a serious issue for students that needs to be addressed,” Cosh said.
The subcommittee will address its recommendation that each individual taken to detox be photographed and given the Polaroid picture as a reminder of alcohol’s effects.
“If this strategy discourages even one person from over-consuming, it will be well worth spending the minimal resources in order to reduce harm to individual and public health and safety,” Palmer said.
In UW-Madison’s fall 2001 semester, 33 students were taken to detox, with an average blood alcohol content of .21.
ALRC member Richard Lyshek said the attempts at further regulation are a “ridiculous and frivolous exercise of power.”
“They’re infringing on basic individual rights,” Lyshek said.
In response, subcommittee member Tom Garver said alcohol is already a regulated drug, making it exempt from assaults on individual rights.
“These regulations are put in place to create a climate that benefits the society at large,” Garver said.
Cosh said the subcommittee was primarily prompted by safety concerns including over-serving and over-capacity crowds in bars, citing a bar with the capacity of 99 which was busted with 310 occupants.
“We’re not talking about drink specials and house parties, we’re talking about serious safety issues. We’ve been lucky in Madison not to have that, but time is running out,” according to Cosh.
Palmer said the subcommittee does not condemn all alcohol use.
“We’re trying to encourage healthy use but discourage abuse,” Palmer said.
After the hearing, the ALRC will analyze the public’s comments for proposal revision at the next meeting Wednesday. The subcommittee may then vote on the proposal or schedule another public hearing. If the ALRC approves the proposals, they will be sent to the common council for consideration.
Cosh said it is vital for alcohol issues to be discussed while school is in session, in order to get student input.
“We all have been sensitive to make sure we get input especially from students and those who live downtown,” Cosh said. “This hearing will be a chance for good dialogue.”