The Alcohol License Review Committee may expand what venues must obtain an entertainment license, in response to police concerns about small restaurants morphing into nightclubs.
Current law allows restaurants and bars to host DJs or live entertainment without getting an entertainment license, as long as their capacity is below 100 people.
Capt. Joe Balles, commander of the Madison Police Department's south district, says some mom-and-pop restaurants are trying to make extra cash by letting promoters host events.
"We call it 'bar jacking,'" he says. "An owner will strike a deal to get someone to play some music for the night, and they feel like they've lost control of their bar."
Ald. Mike Verveer, who sits on the ALRC, has asked the City Attorney's Office to draft an ordinance to lower the entertainment license threshold to venues with a capacity of under 50. Getting a license requires establishments to pay $50, develop a security plan and get approval from the ALRC.
Verveer regrets that some places (like the Frequency) that have never created problems will need a license, if the proposal is approved.
"I don't want anyone to be under the impression this ordinance is anti-fun, anti-music," Verveer says. "I want to do everything I can to foster live music in the city."
With that in mind, Verveer wants exemptions for acoustic music and karaoke.
As for restaurants becoming entertainment spots later in the evening, Verveer says, "I have no problem with a restaurant offering music with a DJ or live music. It's not like we have some law against that. What we're saying is we want to know about it and make sure you've got a handle on it."