The City of Madison Common Council met Tuesday to discuss various alcohol-related resolutions near the University of Wisconsin campus.
Last Thursday, Mayor Paul Soglin proposed a moratorium on the issuance of new alcohol licenses in a high density, high police respondents area in downtown Madison. Following review, City Council moved to refer the moratorium to three additional committees.
This moratorium includes Langdon Street, State Street and Monroe Street. According to the resolution, there has been an increasing number of restaurants and bars serving alcohol in downtown Madison, which has lead to an increased number of fights.
The moratorium will give the council time to come up with long-term solutions for the problems caused excessive drinking in downtown Madison, according to the resolution.
Soglin said binge drinking is one of the reasons for this moratorium.
“[There is a] refusal to come to grips with the fact that the only reason we are the fourth worst city in the U.S. in terms of binge drinking, is because there are three other Wisconsin cities ahead of us,” Soglin said.
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The Council also attempted to override Soglin’s veto of a law which would have allowed patrons to order alcohol online and pick up merchandise in a designated parking area of the store.
Soglin pointed out with this ordinance, people would no longer have to go into the store to purchase alcohol, making it harder to identify the customer’s height and weight. He was also concerned about the ability of smaller businesses to keep up with the larger ones.
“The way the ordinance is structured is going to give a competitive advantage to larger stores with larger parking facilities, and put at a considerable disadvantage small stores without parking facilities,” Soglin said.
The veto needed 14 votes to be overridden but only received 12.
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Finally, the Council approved the liquor license for 505 State St., a new Chinese Dumpling Restaurant. But the approval of this license came with some debate from Soglin.
“I am very deeply concerned about the presumption of anyone who thinks that the Alcohol License Review Committee is such a pushover that people can go in and invest money in a restaurant site on the assumption that they will be granted a liquor license,” Soglin said. “A liquor license is a privilege, not a right.”
Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, District 1, then questioned what the system was for approving liquor licenses, and how it can differ between restaurants on State Street.
Soglin believed the difference in licensing between restaurants on State Street was whether the restaurant was a chain, if there was a long-term plan for a bigger restaurant or if there was a license previously on the property.
To conclude the discussion, Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 5, claimed there is no difference between the restaurants on State Street.
“There are not major differences [in these restaurants],” Bidar-Sielaff said. “How are we making sure that we are really having a way to make decisions that is transparent, equitable and that is following a certain set of rules. I see, personally, an inconsistency in approving this [alcohol license], and not others.”
The board passed the alcohol license in a unanimous vote.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the moratorium was passed when in fact, it was referred to three additional committees. The article has been updated to accurately convey City Council’s action Tuesday evening. The Badger Herald regrets this error.