As crunch-time approaches to renew and expand Madison’s Alcohol License Density Ordinance, those in charge of Madison’s alcohol policy are beginning to question the ordinance’s effectiveness.
After considering a proposal from Ald. Julia Kerr, District 13, to extend the ALDO district south to include the Vilas neighborhood and the south end of Regent Street, some members said they were skeptical of extending the ordinance when clear-cut results for ALDO still have not presented themselves.
Former University of Wisconsin student and committee member Mark Woulf said he did not feel confident that extending ALDO south of Regent Street would be effective.
“I don’t know if we can exactly define that we have density in that area,” Woulf said. “Park and Regent are a lot less of a problem than the [other areas ALDO covers].”
Along with Kerr, Ald. Tim Bruer, District 14, has said he is also interested in extending the area ALDO covers further south into his district, which includes South Park Street and Badger Road.
Although members of the committee said they were skeptical of the extension plan, former University Health Services director and Dane County Coalition Against Alcohol Abuse member Kathy Poi said she believes the extension could help curb underage drinking habits.
“We see this as a positive step and as a tool of prevention,” Poi said. “We’re not prohibitionists, but we do see the consequences of excessive drinking and high-risk drinking.”
Most of the skepticism came after Madison Police Central District Capt. Mary Schauf presented her view on ALDO’s effectiveness to the committee.
Schauf told the committee ALDO is one piece of the alcohol-related crime puzzle which works in conjunction with the Downtown Safety Initiative and increased tavern sanctions to make downtown safer.
She also said ALDO is just one part of a solution to any continuing crime problems downtown.
“The ALDO is just part of the alcohol strategy,” Schauf said. “We consider it to be a preventative approach.”
However, subcommittee members still do not have concrete, quantitative evidence of ALDO’s effectiveness. Schauf’s presentation did not provide numbers that marked a significant difference in alcohol-related crimes such as battery or liquor law violations.
On a geographic level, Schauf’s statistics showed an increase in the density of fights and disturbances on the State Street and University Avenue corridors rather than a broader spread of incidents between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.
She said alcohol-related incidents once common to the King Street section of capital square have now decreased significantly.
The 600 block of University Avenue, the location of Wando’s and near Vintage Bar and Grill and Brothers Bar and Grill, remain centers of alcohol-related crime downtown, Schauf added.
City officials have decided to extend ALDO’s sunset period to March in order to allow extended deliberation which the end-of-the-year holiday schedule would not provide.
ALDO previously was slated to sunset in October, but Verveer said the subcommittee voted to extend the sunset because it was “better to be safe than sorry.”