Seriously, the Silver Dollar may soon have to return to its speakeasy beginnings, because alcohol licenses are evaporating in the downtown area.
The Alcohol License Review Commitee is taking up nine non-renewal hearings today. The most important items on the docket are Riley's Wines of the World, a veritable liquor palace on W. Gorham, Vineyard Liquor (below the Churchkey Bar), and University Ave Liquor. All three of these liquor retailers are within a couple blocks of each other, and together they account for an enormous share of student alcohol purchases, both underage and of-age.
Badger Liquor, a small outfit also owned by the Riley's people, is also scheduled for a non-renewal hearing.
Vineyard is charged with multiple (dozens) of counts of selling alcohol to minors. Of course, we're not really talking about minors we're talking about adults who the state has decided do not have the right to drink. UAL faces similar charges, but on a much greater scale. The Badger Herald reports the store could face up to $1 million forfeiture for its involvement with Campus Drank, a student-run service that delivers alcohol to people's doors.
The case against Riley's and Badger Liquor (as well as Samba Grill) relates to their owners' conviction on multiple charges of tax evasion. Simply put, the owners have been misreporting the income from the stores, and the city is not going to be cool with them keeping their licenses.
In very practical sense, where will a non-driving downtown resident buy beer? Sure, I can stop by Fresh Food Market to get a six-pack I could even get some exercise and haul a 30-pack half-a-mile home. But what about a keg? Are we going to have to resort to Regent Liquor?
My beer needs aside, it will be interesting to see if any of these non-renewals are averted. Ald. Mike Verveer, a long-time member of the committee, tends to take a more lenient approach to alcohol violations. Five of the concerned outlets are in his district, and provide crucial commerce in the downtown area. He is also an outspoken opponent of the Alcohol License Density Plan, which has restricted the number of new bars in the downtown area over the past three years.
Ald. Michael Schumacher, also on the committee, tends to take a more hardline stance on alcohol violations. Although he, like many other alders, says he believes the 21 drinking age is wrong, he also believes in strict enforcement of existing law, a belief he has said may be linked to his German background. The other alder on the committee, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, is harder to predict. Although Bidar has voiced concerns about there not being enough entertainment options for underage students, and has urged the creation of more mixed-age bars, she will not necessarily be sympathetic to the plight of liquor stores.
Neither Schumacher or Verveer could be reached for comment.