UPDATE: Madison adopts new alcohol licensing policy - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Madison adopts new alcohol licensing policy

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The city of Madison has a new policy for approving liquor licenses in the downtown area.

The city council voted Tuesday night to approve changes to the existing Alcohol License Density Ordinance, which restricts any new business with more than 50 percent of sales going to alcohol. That ordinance covers the area from Blair to Park Streets. It's been in place since 2007, but many have challenged whether it appropriately handles the city's problems with too many bars downtown.

The new ordinance, which takes effect July 1, replaces the density ordinance with an overlay district, the targeted problem area. Now, new taverns will be allowed in more of the downtown area. No new bars can be added in the overlay district, which includes two blocks at the end of State Street, the neighboring area of University Avenue, one block of N. Frances, N. Broom and W. Gilman streets.

The ordinance also provides new definitions for types of alcohol licenses, with a goal of bringing more diverse kinds of businesses to downtown.

"Establishments that have entertainment licenses going forward, so for new establishments, would be considered either restaurant/nightclubs or nightclubs," says the city's alcohol policy coordinator, Mark Woulf.

Woulf tells 27 News the previous ordinance was too restrictive and wasn't working. He says he believes the new one will provide the Alcohol License Review Committee more flexibility while keeping the at risk area under the same restrictions.

The effort is also to stop businesses from setting up as restaurants but turning into something else because it can't make it as a restaurant. City leaders want potential business owners coming to them with solid plans that can be successful.

Mary Carbine, executive director of Madison's Central Business Improvement District (BID) has been in contact with entrepreneurs looking to start their business in town but instead got discouraged by the rules.

"It had a chilling effect, businesses didn't even consider Madison, even if they could have possibly made it work because it was just too complicated and the message was no if you're not a restaurant we don't want you," Carbine tells 27 News.

Carbine says the new approach is a more fine-tuned way of licensing new businesses that want to sell alcohol, rather than a blanket prohibition.

The changes are not welcomed by some people. Sachi Komai owns Anthology, a stationery and gift store on State Street.

"We want families to come into town, we want everybody to feel like this is their city, this is their street to enjoy," Komai tells 27 News. "So my concerns are that many of the retail shops are going to get pushed out because people think they can make a lot more money with a bar or with a restaurant, but then of course when you reach that saturation point.. they're not all going to survive."

Komai says she hopes families don't get discouraged by too many bars and not visit the downtown area.

Carbine tells 27 News the retail industry is still struggling, but won't necessarily suffer from the new alcohol licensing policy. BID is working on a plan to revitalize retail downtown by providing a convenient, safe and clean space for customers to enjoy. She hopes new, creative businesses will find Madison as a new home.

A few months ago, the city's Alcohol License Review Committee also was given more control over problem establishments. The ALRC will be able to be more proactive and involved in discussions with management at businesses that have repeated police calls or offenses to stop the problem before it gets to the point of possible suspension.

Woulf says there will be an annual review of the new alcohol policy ordinance, in case the city finds problems with operations.


MADISON (WKOW) -- The city of Madison is adopting a new plan for alcohol licensing in the downtown area.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports the Madison City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to replace the existing Downtown Alcohol License Density Ordinance with an approach that many believe will help regulate problems near State Street.

There are some who oppose the changes, saying the new plan could push retailers that don't sell alcohol out of the downtown area.

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