The city of Madison is considering permitting new liquor licenses downtown for certain kinds of establishments - those devoted to entertainment.
The proposal is being considered as the city looks at renewing the downtown alcohol density plan, which expires March 5.
Passed in 2007, the plan was designed to reduce the concentration of bars in the downtown area. New taverns can't open downtown, except in spaces that are already licensed.
"One of my frustrations is we're preventing cool concepts from opening in downtown Madison," says Ald. Mike Verveer. "The law doesn't allow us to consider their applications." Developers have proposed bowling alleys, movie theaters, dueling-piano bars, live theater - but under the ordinance, the city can't give them a liquor license.
Tom Landgraf, a member of the Alcohol License Review Committee, is open to allowing licenses for entertainment, but knows people "can get really creative about what entertainment is." Is having a band a couple times a week enough to qualify?
Verveer agrees that's a sticking point: "It's a little bit of you know it when you see it. Yet that doesn't work for an ordinance amendment."
Landgraf also says limiting the number of licenses doesn't necessarily solve problems associated with drinking. He favors stricter regulation for bars in problem areas, similar to how school zones and neighborhoods have reduced speed limits, saying these might be given shorter leases than, say, "a mom-and-pop neighborhood bar with a capacity of 50."