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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Kimia Lounge increase no go for ALRC

[media-credit name=’MEGHAN CONLIN/Herald Photo’ align=’alignright’ width=’336′]kimia1_mc_416[/media-credit]The Madison Alcohol License Review Committee rejected a request by downtown establishment Kimia Lounge, 14 W. Mifflin St., to increase its capacity Wednesday.

The Kimia Lounge asked the committee to approve a capacity increase from 100 people to 160, but received criticism about doing so in a high-density area.

"The 160 [person capacity] is where we can operate at our core business," owner Kami Eshraghi said. "I don't understand why the neighborhood is picking on me."


Originally, Eshraghi argued, the building's original design allows for a 160-person capacity, and said more people will help increase the lounge's total revenue, which he said has dropped steadily since the smoking ban.

But many downtown residents spoke out in opposition, saying an increase in capacity will eventually lead to an increase in negative alcohol-related incidents in the area.

"One of the main problems … was the number of patrons on the streets at bar time," Capitol Neighborhoods President Ledell Zellers said. "We need to pause before we start approving liquor and capacity licenses. We, as a community, need to take a serious look at what we're doing."

Some residents cited the recent Alcohol Licensed Established Response Team meeting on Monday which overviewed disturbances on King Street.

But Eshraghi's business partner Peggy Burke felt comparing the Kimia Lounge's environment to the King Street environment was unfair.

"All I'm asking is to operate at capacity," she said. "I'm hurt that I have to defend my place when we've been doing so well."

Burke, who called the Kimia Lounge her "life," added the establishment has not had any incidents in their area.

Those in support of the increase emphasized Kimia Lounge's patron diversity and the safe environment within the building.

"Kimia Lounge is different. When you walk in, it's like a United Nations convention," Dan Jardine, a longtime customer, said. "It seems that Kimia Lounge would be penalized for other establishments."

Capt. Jay Lengfeld of the Madison Police said the department was opposed to approving the increase due to the already high number of bars in the area.

"We believe there is already an over-capacity of the downtown area," Lengfeld said. "The capacity is over what it should be."

When it came time for the committee to have an open discussion on the issue, committee member David Hart said rejecting the request was not the right way to deal with downtown density problems.

"In the grand scheme of things, I think [the capacity] is a manageable amount," he said. "I don't think we need to solve our density issues by cutting him off."

Committee chair Ken Kamp, however, could not support the request.

"I've always supported the Kimia Lounge, but there comes a point where things hit the fan and we have to draw a line," Kamp added.

After the committee denied the request, Eshragi expressed his displeasure with the decision. According to Eshragi, higher property taxes for neighborhood residents pushed associations like Capitol Neighborhoods to criticize his business.

"It is a business," he said. "We committed ourselves to the city before all of these condos went up; and now, because of that, they're picking on us."

Despite the rejection, Eshragi said the fight to increase the bar's capacity has not ended.

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