I was glad to see Emily Mills address the inconsistencies of the city's alcohol policy enforcement in this week's paper edition of Isthmus.
Madison police were prepared to bring evidence against the Kollege Klub in a nonrenewal hearing, but instead then-Alcohol Policy Coordinator Katherine Plominski did an end-run around law enforcement. She struck a quiet deal with the Kollege Klub for "lesser sanctions," wherein it was allowed to keep its license without much further scrutiny. It was a slap on the wrist for a bar with a long history of violations and went against everything the ALRC claims to be about.
The cooperation between bars and the city of Madison are in many ways a microcosm of the American relationship between government and business. The federal government negotiates similarly with the large corporations who do naughty things think Wall Street firms and BP.
And the negotiation between businesses and government mirrors the criminal justice system, in which defendants almost always strike a plea bargain that reduces their sentences.
However, there is a key difference. Letting certain businesses slide for violations seems to be a rather natural bi-product of a capitalist system. Businesses that grow become quasi-governmental bodies themselves simply because of the economic and political clout they wield in their communities. Do you want to be the alder who tells 20 students they're out of jobs?
It's very easy for officials to visualize the negative consequences of punishing a business, whereas they are less likely to ponder the potential societal damage that comes from jailing an individual.
The problem is that it's nearly impossible, save a few extreme examples, to envision the good that comes from shutting down a bar or liquor store. The best policy makers can do is guess, which is what they did with the density plan. Is the average UW student going to get any less shitfaced because there are three fewer bars in the downtown area?
What the city should do is concentrate on reducing drunken driving and making sure that really young kids aren't buying booze. Leave the 18-20-year-olds a lone. They drink. It's a part of nature. The only thing that is unnatural is the speed with which some adults forget that after they turn 21.
Emily said this: "We can't litter the nearby streets with bars and clubs and not understand that the under-21 crowd will still try to get in because it's pretty much the only entertainment game in town; we need to provide decent alternatives."
I say this: We can't send people to war, empower them with the right to vote, marry, buy a house; hold them responsible for crimes as adults and expect them not to drink.