With the Alcohol Licensing Review Committee deciding in August to extend last call on the controversial Alcohol License Density Ordinance from October 5 to sometime in March 2011, we decided it was our responsibility as a group of 21(ish)-year-olds to offer up a few changes for ALRC to consider.
It’s not that ALDO has completely failed, it just feels like ordering a drink at the Nitty a few minutes after happy hour has ended; the intentions were good but the cost just seems a bit high.
To review, ALDO currently restricts new bars, taverns and watering holes from opening unless at least 50 percent of sales come from food. This policy is strictly adhered to, as Quinton’s Bar and Deli — which made a whopping 52.8 percent from alcohol sales — can attest to. Quinton’s was closed down after it got on the dark side of the ALRC, for operating as a bar (52.8 percent of the time) and not a restaurant.
The ordinance was created in 2007 for two main reasons. One, to restrict alcohol related crime. Two, to prevent downtown Madison from becoming the Midwest version of Bourbon Street. And these reasons are fine.
But the plan has all the nuance of a “Call It” drink special at one of our fine late night establishments. Driving Quinton’s out of business because they are on the wrong side of a slim margin reeked of bureaucratic balderdash. ALDO is currently written in a way that makes it difficult to bring in under-21 entertainment venues, a goal of both District 4 Alder Mike Verveer and the Associated Students of Madison.
So here are a few ideas to consider: Use subsidies instead of straight restrictions to encourage non-bars to enter downtown vacancies. Mayor Dave has often said he wants a bustling downtown both night and day. Use economic incentives instead of a blunt all-consuming law to ensure that goal.
More importantly, however, take advantage of the ALRC. Give the fine committee members more discretion in individual cases, instead of tying their hands with the black-and-white ordinance.
Over the next five months some changes need to be made, for the good of the city, its businesses and its bars. If not, the ALRC can expect a loud chorus of ALDON’T come the deadline in March.