Schumacher: 'Quite frankly, it's in the best interest of everyone in this community to weed out the few bad apples.'
Madison's bar industry has its eyes on Ald. Michael Schumacher, and rightfully so. During his first year on the city's Alcohol License and Review Committee, the Dist. 18 councilman has sought tougher regulatory enforcements, including new restrictions on who can get a bartender's license.
He has also taken on Quinton's, a downtown restaurant for violating the terms of its liquor license by selling more alcohol than food.
Schumacher, an admitted margarita drinker, says his hope is to reassert the ALRC's regulatory authority over the bar industry, hopefully striking a balance between overly conservative and overly liberal approaches.
In the coming weeks, three new members will be appointed to the ALRC, giving Schumacher, 46, an opportunity to mentor a new generation of committee members. He spoke to The Daily Page this week about his plans for the ALRC and whether they are a blueprint for a new War on Fun.
The Daily Page: Are you aiming to reform the ALRC or just tie-up some loose ends?
Schumacher: We need to take the existing policies and philosophies and streamline them so they can be enforceable. We've got 40 violations on the books -- some are esoteric; some are hardly used. The police don't even know them all. I'm saying, "Let's go after those violations that create the maximum amount of bang for the buck."
Some of your colleagues on the ALRC have said you're making it more difficult for bartenders to earn a living. Do you agree?
I think it's appropriate to have a bartender who is trained and has the maturity to say, "You are done, would you like me to call you a cab?" I'm looking for that kind of management of the establishment.
You can be a bartender without any certification whatsoever. If, however, you want a license, I want to make sure that you have shown responsibility in your behavior. If you haven't, what you need to do is work under someone else's license. You need to be supervised by the owner or someone else with a license.
Why single out people who've had substance abuse problems?
This is something that is not yet resolved. My goal is to say, "If you have one alcohol-related charge, you can't get your license for five years. If you have two, you can't get it for 10 years." Substance abuse we might go a little differently. It's in the state statute. If you're a perpetual offender, we can deny you a license. A felony, no matter what it is, we can prevent you from getting a license.
So, the state statutes are there. It's just that we as a city and as a body have never been able to enforce it for ideological reasons or just the lack of us having consistent ways of applying it.
Are you declaring a War on Fun?
This is absolutely not true. This is not about taking licenses away. frankly, it's in the best interest of everyone in this community to weed out the few bad apples. If I was a bar owner, and I get a bartender applying who has a city license to be a bartender, I would love to know that this person has met some qualifications and that means that you don't have a record that indicates the opposite.
Do you expect Quinton's liquor license to be revoked?
We have a process called suspension or revocation. It should really be called a disciplinary hearing, which could lead to any form of discipline, from a verbal to written reprimand to suspension to revocation. We have initiated a suspension and revocation hearing because that's the only verbiage on the books. I am keeping my mind open on this case.
But the message is this: If you applied for the alcohol license as a restaurant, because you were afraid you wouldn't get it as a bar, although you knew most likely that you'd be behaving like a bar, you've basically falsified the application about your intent. It's a borderline case. I'm not convinced it will get the ultimate penalty.
Three new faces will be appointed to the ALRC soon. What kind of people do you hope the mayor selects?
I'd like people who can analyze and spend some time thinking about what is the purpose of the ALRC and how can we minimize negative public behavior caused by alcohol. In other words, if someone joins the ALRC thinking they're going to solve alcohol-related problems, good luck. If they think they're going to solve the problems we have with alcohol addiction, no way.
If people want to drink more than they should, that's their business. It becomes our business if you take that behavior into a public setting that then requires police or other peoples' rights being infringed upon. You're rights stop where other rights begin.