ALRC Subcommittee members gather with local business owners to discuss possible changes to an expiring ordinance.[/media-credit]

An Alcohol License Review Subcommittee meeting Thursday invited local real estate developers and business owners to voice their opinions regarding the Alcohol License Density Ordinance.

The ordinance prevents new establishments from receiving an alcohol license unless they are replacing existing businesses, with the exception of restaurants. In October, ALDO will expire unless the City Council chooses to extend the law.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the purpose of the meeting was for investors and business owners to provide insight into how ALDO has affected them and what changes they would suggest if the law were to continue.

“The best thing about this (meeting) is it’s an eye opener for my ALRC colleagues to hear real life stories from real estate professionals and establishments themselves,” Verveer said.

While some individuals were in favor of the ordinance and others opposed, everyone who spoke criticized ALDO to different extents, mentioning changes they would like to see.

One area of concern was how ALDO affects entertainment establishments like comedy clubs and “dinner and a movie” type businesses, as most of their revenue comes from alcohol sales.

“With specifics and rules, we’re now shutting out entertainment concepts that may have an alcohol component,” said Mary Carbine, executive director of the Business Improvement District. “Is a dinner and a movie place necessarily going to result in the same kinds of problems as another establishment?”

Verveer said he was interested in amending the ordinance to include flexibility for entertainment businesses. He added ALDO became a law of “unintended consequences.”

The meeting also drew attendants who were completely opposed to ALDO altogether and suggested letting the rule expire.

Madison resident Rosemary Lee said the intent of ALDO was probably good, but ended up punishing everybody for the sins of a few.

“It’s just insanity,” Lee said. “Each venue needs to be judged on its own merit.”

ALDO also poses a rule in which landlords or new businesses have 365 days to apply for an alcohol license after a previous operator’s license expires. Nearly every person who spoke criticized the rule and asked the subcommittee to reconsider it.

“One of the best tools to provide to property owners to find a good, responsible operator is time,” Carbine said. “We recommend indefinite suspension of the 365 day window so owners don’t keep a current failing operator or bring in a bad one.”

Other suggestions included eliminating the blanketing 25 percent revenue rule and consider each new applicant individually.

“I understand the intention of it,” rReal eEstate dDeveloper John Holborow said. “I hope in cases going forward that all applicants are considered on a case by case basis, that makes the most sense.”

Assistant Madison City Attorney Steve Brist said the subcommittee should frame discussion as if ALDO will continue. He added his gut reaction is that the council would not let it expire.

After everyone voiced their critiques and ideas, the subcommittee agreed to meet in four weeks to discuss options for amending ALDO.