Despite a city committee’s decision not to take immediate action on the issue, two downtown bars may face audits into the breakdown of their business model in the coming weeks, which could carry a penalty of being forced to shut down.
The Alcohol License Review Committee met Wednesday evening to discuss a request by the Madison Police Department to have the city perform audits on Logan’s Madtown and Chaser’s Bar and Grille. The committee also voiced concerns about setting a specific deadline to complete the city’s audit process.
According to Madison Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Zilavy, both establishments hold operating licenses that require them to operate primarily as restaurants. Running against the provisions of their licenses, Logan’s and Chaser’s have operated primarily as bars.
A restaurant in Wisconsin is defined as having sales of alcohol beverages accounting for 50 percent or less of an establishment’s gross receipts.
MPD requested the audit to determine what percentage alcohol and food accounted for the establishments’ receipts. According to committee MPD Rep. Sue Williams, MPD Captain Carl Gloede formally made the request.
The potential audits could lead to a possible closure of the two bars, as has happened with other downtown bars in the past, Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said.
Because city audits of liquor establishments are so rare, there is no written procedure for how requests are handled, Verveer said.
The committee briefly discussed how to perform the potential audits of both establishments, which city department would perform them and how long the audits are expected to take.
Because several ALRC members expressed a sense of unfamiliarity with the auditing process, Verveer suggested that Madison’s finance office perform them in the event the committee would deem audits necessary.
ALRC member Tom Landgraf said a practical date to expect results of the potential audits would be May 16, when the committee votes to renew alcohol licenses of area establishments.
City Council President Shiva Bidar-Sielaff expressed concern with providing a specific date for the audit results to be completed, citing members’ unfamiliarity with the issue.
“I really don’t feel comfortable giving a timeline to our finance department, because I know for a fact these audits are very time consuming,” Bidar-Sielaff said. “There is a huge level of discomfort on my part for not having them here and knowing their workload. I don’t want to push it.”
Landgraf agreed with Bidar-Sielaff’s sentiments, adding it was not the ALRC’s responsibility to delegate a timeline for the finance office to perform the audit.
Zilavy said city officials have not held discussions with the two establishments regarding potential audits.
City Alcohol Policy Coordinator Mark Woulf informed the committee that Mayor Paul Soglin has been aware of MPD’s request for audits and has had some preliminary discussions regarding potential solutions, including the enforcement of the definition of a restaurant.
Woulf added the issue would remain significant in future ALRC meetings.
“It is definitely something that needs to be defined as an agenda item for next time,” Woulf said.
Bidar-Sielaff said discussions on the matter should continue once ALRC has obtained more information on the process of auditing. The committee ultimately did not take action on the MPD request.