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Bar-goers line up outside Wando’s on University Avenue, but can expect to see a sign in the establishment’s window saying only valid driver’s licenses and passports are acceptable forms of ID.[/media-credit]

A new ID policy put in effect by a handful of Madison bars to only allow entry with a valid driver’s license or passport has led some city officials to take concern about possible racial discrimination.

Recent research done in Madison shows that about 15 percent of Caucasians do not have a license compared to about 50 percent of black people, city Alcohol Policy Coordinator Mark Woulf said.

“That alone raises eyebrows and could easily be determined to be discriminatory,” he said.

A few bars implemented the policy this summer in response to a rise in violence, he said. Student or state IDs displayed by patrons will no longer be accepted. The bars with the restrictive policy allege it has reduced incidences of violence.

Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said the policy violates the legitimacy of a state-issued ID. Some bars that have implemented the policy in the past or currently follow it include popular campus bars such as Wando’s and Logan’s, he said.

Resnick said he disagrees that the purpose of the policy is to curb underage drinking, calling the claim illegitimate.

The new policy is also not a city-backed policy, Mayor Paul Soglin said.

Woulf said there has been no formal complaint against the bars who have signed on to promote the new rules. If a bar were to be found in violation of the city’s equal opportunities ordinance, it could lead to the removal of the bar’s liquor license, Woulf said.

If a complaint were to be filed, someone would have to bring it to the civil rights department, Soglin said.

Although some bars have adopted the new policy, many bars in Madison have continued to accept all valid state and federal identification.

“I haven’t seen a need to do it and don’t know why others are doing it,” State Street Brats Manager Matt Goetsch said.

Kollege Klub Manager Jordan Meier also said he is “sticking with what works.” Anyone who looks 30 years or younger is required to show a state or federal ID that is not expired, he said.

Meier said he thinks one or two people that have caused a problem in the crowd spearheaded the new policy, but he has not seen a problem in his crowd in recent months to switch to the restrictive policy.

In a previous email to The Badger Herald, the owner of Johnny O’s Sports Lounge said the policy allows the bar to be more selective about the identification it accepts. He added the bar has seen many instances of state IDs that are not legitimate.

Still, Joshua Aliesch, Director of Operations for Fortney Companies, Brothers Bar’s parent company, said the bar does not use the policy because doing so would not advance Brothers’ goal to make all customers feel safe and welcomed. The bar accepts almost all forms of valid identifications that can provide proof of age, including military IDs, state issued IDs, driver’s licenses and passports. 

“For security measures, we’ll sometimes ask for a second form of ID, but we really just want safety in our location–we don’t want trouble,” Aliesch said. “We try to do things to protect ourselves amidst advice from the city, the university and the police department. We do things that we believe are our best practice.”

The city’s Alcohol License Review Committee will sit down with the city attorney, Department of Civil Rights and Madison Police Department for a training session sometime in December to address the issue, he added.

There will be a private meeting this week among the downtown alders and other interested parties to discuss the issue as well, Resnick said.

The group is working on drafting a letter that will then be sent to bar owners when finished, he said. Woulf said he understands the bars are trying to keep their business safe, but is unsure the policy is the way to do so.

“We want to give bar owners tools to keep their establishments safe without discriminating against patrons,” Woulf said.

Due to a reporting error, Monday’s article “Officials
consider pitfalls in downtown bar policy” incorrectly identified Brothers as a
downtown bar that only accepts valid driver’s licenses and passports for proof
of age. The bar actually accepts state issued IDs, military IDs, driver’s licenses,
passports and other valid forms of identification that demonstrate proof of
age. The story also said there would be a private meeting between city officials this week when in fact it should have read there would be a routine and planned meeting between Mayor Paul Soglin and the Madison Police Department. We regret the errors and the online version of the story has been changed
to reflect the correct information.