Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Madison’s Downtown: The Musical

We hate to sound like a broken record, but we play what
we’re given. Once again the ill-conceived Alcohol License Density Plan has
thrust the city into a Prohibition-era musical farce, and this time the theme
is “Catch-22.” Center stage we have the allegorically named Madison’s
Downtown, trying to do the chips-and-salsa, but the businessman is shouted down
by the Chorus, Capitol Neighborhoods, Inc.: “A bar you are and all you
shall be/ Never may you up your capacity.”

The plot is unbelievable, even by the standards of farce.
When Madison’s Downtown, 119 N. King St., inherited a clothing store years ago,
it also inherited the building’s 216-person maximum capacity. But when the fire
department re-examined the site several months ago, they raised the figure to
340. Madison’s Downtown co-owner Lynn Haker said the bar wants to capitalize on
this by encouraging patrons currently forced to wait outside for a table to
come inside for a drink or appetizer.

Like any good mustache-twirling villain, however, CNI doesn’t
let common sense get in the way of a “gotcha” moment. When Madison’s
Downtown submitted Monday their request to CNI — which has increasingly tried
to supplant the City Council as Madison’s high court on all things
alcohol-related — the density plan was once again trotted out as a
one-size-fits-all decree: If less than 50 percent of your sales are from food,
you can’t increase your customers. Never mind if you need to increase your
customers to sell more food.


As Mr. Haker put it, “There is not a magic switch that
you flip to go from 10 to 60 percent overnight.” The bar has increased
food sales to 35 percent already, and given Madison’s Downtown’s distance from
campus and co-owner Andy Haker’s assertion, “We don’t want to pack them in
like college kids do,” it hardly seems plausible that letting another
hundred-odd folks in during busy days would increase crime or public

The final act of this production has yet to begin, as
Madison’s Downtown will make their case to the City Council May 6, but Alder
Mike Verveer, Dist. 4, may have given the ending away, if it was ever in doubt.
At the Capitol Neighborhoods meeting, Mr. Verveer acknowledged the
“dilemma” without offering a solution, simply repeating the sad
refrain, “You have to be a restaurant. And you do not meet the definition
of a restaurant today.”

And so, “Madison’s Downtown: The Musical” looks to
take a turn from comedy to tragedy. Let’s hope the city starts singing a
different tune soon.

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