On Wednesday night, Ald. Bryon Eagon, District 8, brought the Alcohol License Review Committee a fair proposal. Since students have a large stake in the regulation and organization of liquor licenses throughout the city, they should have a permanent voting representative on the committee.

It makes sense. Most of the downtown bars would have only a fraction of the revenue they have now were it not for the student body. What’s more, we have a bit more of a grounded perspective on things. Mark Woulf, the Associated Students of Madison representative to ALRC, made that clear when he remarked that other ALRC members were rather shocked during a recent three-hour tour of the downtown bars — shocked by things students find common.

Yet as debate started, it became obvious that the members of the board weren’t having it.

First, let’s give credit where it’s due. Alcohol Policy Coordinator Katherine Plominski was one of the only committee members to put forward anything close to Eagon’s proposal by suggesting there be a permanent voting member of ALRC who is under the age of 25. While we still think her position is completely unnecessary, we appreciate her support in this situation.

Unfortunately, the rest of the committee seems to view students in a less flattering light.

During his closing remarks, ALRC Chair David Hart explained why he wouldn’t support Mr. Eagon’s measure by suggesting the current system needs to run its course: “We were presented with a proposal to have a technical adviser — the other technical advisers on this committee from specific constituencies don’t have a voting role.”

Ald. Michael Schumacher, District 18, presented the situation in the same light, suggesting that if ALRC allowed a voting student position, they’d have to make the University of Wisconsin and Tavern League representatives voting members as well.

They neglect the fact that both the University of Wisconsin and the Tavern League of Wisconsin are interest groups.

Students are not an interest group. We are residents. We are patrons. We are one-fourth of this city.

We are upset ALRC cannot see that. ALRC members have instead suggested a compromise where another citizen voting member would be created and the mayor could — if he wants — appoint a student. That may be a step in the right direction, but it is not a guaranteed seat at the table. It says that students can speak up only if we are deemed worthy.

We would hope that ALRC members would see us as such.

For the most part, the members at least acknowledged the usefulness of a student vote.

Except for one.

Marsh Shapiro, Tavern League representative and owner of the Nitty Gritty, made it clear he doesn’t want students on this body.

“I think it comes back to the purpose of what we’re supposed to be doing here: Dealing with alcohol issues. And I’m not so sure that the students should be involved in the business that we have here,” Mr. Shapiro said.

As far as Mr. Shapiro is concerned, students won’t be able to keep up with the nuances of ALRC. What’s more, we’ll only be on there for a year, so what useful contribution can we make? Plus, the ALRC deals with many bars outside of the campus area and what do we know about alcohol issues anyway?

First off, we’ve had students on campus learn the nuances of our segregated fee system in a matter of weeks. We can pick up the procedures on ALRC if actually given the chance.

Secondly, according to the proposal, the student would not be required to be 21 at the beginning of his or her term. Therefore, he or she would rightly be able to carry out the duties of a voting member for a full term, like any other appointee.

Third, while many students may have never been to Wiggie’s, it is very obvious that many ALRC members have never frequented the downtown bars — or Wiggie’s for that matter.

Students would have a meaningful voice on the committee. For now, we would work toward transforming downtown into something more than a 1.5-mile bar crawl. Opening up more 18-plus options would be a top priority. Furthermore, students will be able to offer an important and unique viewpoint when dealing with alcohol issues.

Finally, Mr. Shapiro, you owe your business to the student community. Without us, you’d make a fraction of what you do now. Apparently, you don’t seem to understand what we’ve given you over the years.

Perhaps it’s time you found out.

It is for that reason that The Badger Herald and The Daily Cardinal call on the student community to boycott The Nitty Gritty until Mr. Shapiro agrees to support a voting student member on the ALRC and actively encourages his colleagues to do the same. We do not take this level of combative action lightly. But when a local business owner spits in the face of his own patrons, he deserves an equal response.

So, please, head to the bars. Head to Wando’s, hit up The Plaza — go to any other bar you see fit. Show how much students are invested in this city.

Then we can remind Mr. Shapiro that there are plenty of other places we can celebrate birthdays.


Jason Smathers, Editor in Chief

Kevin Bargnes, Managing Editor

Eric Schmidt, Editorial Page Editor

Sean Kittridge, Editorial Page Content Editor

Joe Labuz, Editorial Board Chairman

Beth Mueller, Editorial Board Member

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