Taco Bell with beer, wine on State Street closer to reality - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Taco Bell with beer, wine on State Street closer to reality

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A higher end, Taco Bell fast food restaurant serving alcohol on Madison's State Street is closer to reality, but still faces political hurdles.

The Taco Bell Cantina franchise is set to open by year's end at 534 State Street.  The fast food giant's Cantina concept features alcohol at a restaurant in Las Vegas, and other locations.

Madison's Alcohol License and Review Committee (ALRC) Wednesday approved the sale of beer and wine at the planned State Street location.  The committee's vote was 5-to-2.  Before the committee's consideration, franchise owner Pat Eulberg of the 900-restaurant, Ohio-based Flynn Restaurant Group modified his proposal to drop the sale of liquor drinks.

"The proposed business plan seemed solid,"  said student committee member Alexander Toy.  "The owners (are) taking many precautions to prevent over consumption and underage consumption."

But city councilperson Paul Skidmore voted against granting the beer and wine-serving authority, saying the density of licensed, alcohol establishments in that part of downtown strains police resources, and another licensee in that popular, college section would increase risks associated with alcohol.  "It's ground zero," Skidmore says of the location's connection to alcohol-abuse.

Toy says ALRC consideration of the Taco Bell Cantina proposal properly focused on the project's merits and protections, and says zoning to address the density of establishments selling alcohol is a legislative issue. 

Skidmore says Eulberg found a "loophole" in the current zoning restrictions by modifying the proposal to eliminate liquor drinks.  But Eulberg does not rule out approaching city regulators in the future to add liquor drinks, as are present in other Taco Bell Cantina restaurants.

Eulberg says the number of security cameras on the property was the product of consultation with Madison Police leaders;  all alcohol-servers go through a special, company training program; and alcoholic beverages are poured into clear, plastic cups, as opposed to Taco Bell Cantina ad-wrapped cups.

ALRC members are forming a subcommittee to study the emerging shift of interest in serving alcoholic beverages at fast food-type restaurants, and how they should be regulated.

The ALRC's approval will advise the city council, which must vote on the project.  Mayor Paul Soglin has publicly opposed the idea, and any council approval could face a mayoral veto. 


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