A city committee updated and recommended renewal of a city ordinance that prohibits liquor stores from selling to habitually drunk persons Wednesday night.
Madison’s City Council first passed the Habitually Intoxicated Persons ordinance in July 2010. The Alcohol License Review Committee chose Wednesday to recommend the ordinance be extended to 2015, and updated the law so a new ban list is produced every six months instead of every four months. The updated ordinance would also remove people from the list if they do not receive any alcohol-related convictions in a six-month period, while the old ordinance stipulated a year-long period.
The ordinance defines a habitually drunk person as someone who receives six or more alcohol-related convictions in a 180-day period, the statement said.
Woulf said the changes were made because law enforcement had a difficult time updating the list quarterly. The ordinance requires the habitually drunk people on the ban list are notified in person so they have a chance to appeal the decision, he said.
The police had a difficult time locating every person on the ban list every four months, especially because many of the people on the list have no permanent address, he said.
“If you’re struggling with alcoholism and then if you’re clean and sober for six months, that’s a good accomplishment and you deserve to be taken off of this list,” Woulf said.
Woulf cited a study done by United Way that motivated the city to initiate the original ordinance. He said United Way’s study found that approximately 60 habitually drunk people cost the city of Madison and Dane County more than $3 million annually through detox fees, hospital charges, police services and other services.
Woulf said he looks forward to having the ordinance continue and hopes it helps some people suffering from alcoholism. He cited one person who had been on the ban list, which prompted him to go to rehab, and now is sober.
“I think is has a potential to be a success,” Woulf said. “We’ll see when we have a few more years of data.”
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, sponsored the ordinance and said both law enforcement officials and the liquor industry in Madison support the ordinance. He said police have said it makes a difference and liquor stores have said the ordinance has been helpful since it was implemented in avoiding disturbances and panhandling.
He said the ordinance mainly will be used downtown and will provide liquor stores with a legal way to turn away people who are habitually intoxicated.
“I’m not foolish enough to think we’re going to cure alcoholism,” Verveer said. “There’s no way this will force them to seek treatment and cure their illness. But it will perhaps provide baby steps.”
Verveer also said the the now-closed sushi restaurant T Sushi surrendered its liquor license, and a new potential restaurant, Chi, has taken its place on 251 State St. and plans to apply for a liquor license. He said the city had been taking steps to revoke T Sushi’s license, but now it is a moot point.
He said he is unsure whether the new restaurant will receive a liquor license from the city. It depends on the who the new management is, he said. He said their plan is to submit the application for review at the May 24 ALRC meeting.