Due to loud and violent behavior disrupting surrounding neighborhoods, city officials will seek to implement an ordinance requiring establishments to obtain entertainment licenses in addition to their liquor licenses.
The ordinance will require establishments with capacities of more than 49 to obtain an additional license to host entertainment such as live music or DJs. Currently, only venues with capacities of more than 99 are required to have an entertainment license.
The fee for the license is approximately $250 annually and the revision will go into effect April 15.
“There have been experiences in the last few years with small establishments that claim to be restaurants when they’re applying for a liquor license, but instead morph into nightclubs,” Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said.
Verveer, also a member of the Alcohol License Review Committee, said City Council approved the ordinance unanimously late last year, purposely providing several months for establishments to apply for the license.
Two establishments that have served as strong motivations for the new ordinance are Africana Restaurant & Lounge on Atwood Avenue and Azzalino’s Bar & Grill on Park Street. These establishments came before ALRC assuring the committee they would function primarily as restaurants, Verveer said.
In the case of Azzalino’s, though it was known the bar would serve as a main component in its business, entertainment began to be offered, drawing larger crowds. As a result, loud and violent behavior became commonplace, disrupting the neighborhoods that lay adjacent to the establishment.
Africana has had similar problems. Fights both within and outside the establishment prompted neighbors to contact police concerning the behavior, Verveer said.
Verveer added outside promoters providing the entertainment are not in a position that could place them in legal troubles for their acts, whereas the establishments are, contributing to the potential for disruptive behavior.
Though there has been no direct opposition to the ordinance, there has been some reluctance from establishments, as the entertainment license requires extra paperwork and processing.
“We really want to make sure that these smaller establishments are prepared for larger groups, but also allow them to have a conversation with the neighborhoods and residents near their establishments,” University of Wisconsin senior and ALRC member Mark Woulf said.
Woulf explained the ordinance allows establishments to take control by coming up with specific security plans on nights of entertainment, which will then be reviewed by the ALRC.
This kind of transparency, Woulf said, fosters more open communication between the establishments and ALRC.
Woulf said as long as there is a clear plan for the entertainment and security plans, the ordinance should not be a big issue for establishments.
“I really feel awful that the city comes off as anti-entertainment,” Verveer said.
He added City Council has been trying to foster more live music establishments and to make it easier for underage crowds to attend by encouraging establishments to obtain entertainment licenses.
“The ordinance encourages more entertainment licenses, which can bring more of the underage crowd, such as college students, to the establishment. It’s great; there are more and more establishments that want to come to the downtown area,” Woulf said.