Changes to the City’s alcohol ordinances approved by City Council Tuesday night will allow for more businesses that wish to serve alcohol to open in the downtown area.
To make city alcohol licensing laws more open to creative business endeavors, the city approved changes to its alcohol zoning code, creating new definitions for establishments that indent on selling alcohol including taverns, restaurants, nightclubs, theaters and venues that fall in multiple categories.
Central Business Improvement District spokesperson Mary Carbine said she and the district approve of the new definitions for alcohol licensing. The changes allow certain types of new establishments to open in areas where they previously could not, including busy spots downtown.
“Although it is a little more complicated, it is more refined and flexible,” Carbine said. “It allows policy makers to create innovative business models that we would like to see downtown and create a vibrant downtown destination for people to gather as well as shop.”
Carbine said the number of retail and service-oriented businesses in Madison’s central district have dramatically increased. However, food and drink establishments have only increased by 1 percent since 1998, she said. She said she hopes to see more businesses opening up in the area that incorporate food and drink into their affairs with these new changes.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the Alcohol License Review Committee is looking for ways to sustain a mix of businesses within the downtown area while places serving alcohol are opening up.
“I wish there were easy solutions to encourage a healthy retail mix downtown and loss of retail to alcohol establishments is a large part to the belief that alcohol license establishments attract higher rent,” Verveer said.
Verveer said this was never an intention with the new changes, and he said he hopes the people who work downtown do what they can to ensure a thriving retail industry in the greater State Street area.
Mansion Hill District
Also on Tuesday night, City Council voted to uphold the Landmarks Commission proposal for the historic Mansion Hill District.
After numerous speeches from registered citizens, plenty of questions from the City Council and hours of discussion between council members, a Landmarks Commission proposal denying Steve Brown Apartments permission to redevelop buildings in the Mansion Hill Historic District in the 100 block of West Gilman Street will now go into effect.
Steve Brown Apartments proposed destroying several buildings in the historic district to replace them with three, five-story buildings. Although these buildings would be structurally larger than the current structures, they would have 122 less beds than what is now available.
Landmarks Commission Chairman Stuart Levitan said there is no need to destroy and renovate the buildings in the Mansion Hill district.
“123 West Gilman has been of cultural and social significance. It is not deteriorated. There is no special condition pertaining to this property other than that it is where Steve Brown wants to build more property,” Levitan said. “This is the same for the Highlander.”
Steve Brown Apartments Community Manager Dan Seeley said the renovations would not lessen the meaningfulness of the historic district. He added that 127 W. Gilman St. is a non-salvageable building in the historic neighborhood and the Highlander is not considered historic property.
Members from the Steve Brown Apartments team said if the city did not pass the proposal, there will be two empty, unusable lots in the historic district which will lead to hardships for their company as well as the city.
However, the City Council did not see how denying this proposal would pose hardships for Madison and decided to uphold the Landmarks Commission early Wednesday morning.