Madison city leaders review alcohol policies, Taco Bell license approved

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MADISON (WKOW) — City officials in Madison are taking a closer look at how to handle liquor licenses on State Street, as they resolve a controversial one that led to a lawsuit.

The Common Council voted Tuesday night to approve a settlement, allowing Taco Bell Cantina to sell beer and wine at its location on State Street.

Former Mayor Paul Soglin had vetoed the Council’s approval of a license in 2017, trying to lower the number of places that can sell alcohol downtown. The Council didn’t have enough votes to override that veto. Taco Bell then sued the city.

Now, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway says she doesn’t want to continue targeting individual businesses to get a handle on alcohol licensing downtown.

“We do absolutely need to have that larger policy conversation,” she told 27 News. “I think it’s very important for us to understand the impact of food service and alcohol businesses on our retail districts, and in particular on State Street, and I’m quite concerned about the business mix on State Street, and certainly alcohol licenses play into that.”

Right now, city staff are studying the effects of having so many bars in one place before making any decisions.

“There’s no denying that we still have significant issues that are limited to the late night hours around bar time on weekend nights in this area,” said Alder Mike Verveer, who represents the district covering the downtown area.

Verveer also introduced a new measure Tuesday to address alcohol licenses. It would extend a ban on new licenses in a portion of State Street, University Avenue, Gilman and Lake streets. That ban, which has been in place for five years, expires in July.

City leaders say if approved, that extension would run through the end of the year, giving them time to finish the study.

“It’s important for us to not just look at how we might limit alcohol licenses, but rather how we might encourage other types of businesses in our business districts,” said Rhodes-Conway.

Meanwhile, Verveer says the city’s Alcohol License Review Committee is considering adding more bars to a list of those who have been told to ban re-entry after 1:30 a.m., in an effort to cut back on violence downtown.

“We have long had an extra influx of cops working in this area on weekend nights that will continue,” Verveer said. “The police feel that that has been a good tool and that that has helped the situation.”

The committee meets Wednesday and Thursday to talk about the proposals with bar owners.

Jennifer Kliese

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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