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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Letter to the Editor: Students no more worthy of ALRC than other groups

My name is Marsh Shapiro. I have owned and operated the Nitty Gritty restaurant and bar at the corner of Frances and Johnson for 41 years. I am a Madison native and U.W. grad.

For the past 6 years I have served as the Madison-Dane County Tavern League representative on the city's Alcohol License Review Committee. (ALRC) as a non-voting member.I would like it to be clear that my position as a consultant or technical advisor on this body made up of 7 members, 5 Madison citizens and two Alderpersons, all selected by the Mayor, is as a spokesperson for the 250 members of the Tavern League, all city of Madison alcohol license holders, and not that as the owner of The Nitty Gritty.

During the course of discussion at last nights ALRC meeting I stated that the Tavern League vehemently opposed the creation of an additional seat on this committee to be filled by a student with voting privileges.

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The Tavern League has previously opposed the appointment of a University of Wisconsin representative to the ALRC with non-voting privileges, and also the appointment of a student to the ALRC as a non-voting member. Both of these appointments were made over our objections. There is history here.

On numerous occasions in the past, the Tavern League has requested voting privileges for our representative on the ALRC from the Mayor, only to be turned down due to a perceived conflict of interest. Even though, just as a judge recuses himself from hearing cases where conflict issues might arise, we have asked that we be accorded those same privileges our words have fallen on deaf ears. One may ask, ""who has a more vested interest in the basic policy, licensing, review, ordinance creation, discipline and possible revocation processes than the city's alcohol licensees themselves, yet we are closed out from the voting process on all issues affecting our businesses and livelihood.

Why doesn't the University of Wisconsin's representative from the Chancellor's Office, Dawn Crim, have voting privileges? Why doesn't the city's Alcohol Policy Coordinator Katherine Plominski have voting privileges? Why doesn't the Madison Police department's representative Carl Gloede have voting privileges?

This past summer, over the objection of the Tavern League, a student was granted a non-voting seat on the ALRC. This appointment was made for a 3 year period, with a sunset clause, meaning it would be reviewed in 2012 to determine if that seat should continue to exist. Now, after only 3 months, Alderman Bryon Eagon is seeking to have this seat turned into one with voting privileges.

It is the Tavern League position that it is way too soon to elevate that seat from a non-voting one to a voting one, and I expressed that at last night's meeting. The Tavern League is also opposed to the fact that the ordinance proposal calls for a student 18 or older to be eligible to fill this seat.

The Tavern League does not feel comfortable having an 18 year old, who is not legally allowed to drink alcohol deciding the fate of any alcohol license applicants or current license holders on issues coming before the ALRC.

Between 75 and 85% of the business of the ALRC deals with citywide alcohol issues. Interestingly enough, last night, after an hour and a half discussion by the ALRC committee members on a proposal to grant an alcohol license and an 18+ license to a new Boutique Bowling Lounge on University Avenue to be patronized by mostly students, not a single student showed up to speak in support of the granting of this license. The Tavern League supported it, as did all other voting and non-voting members.

It is our position that Mark Woulf, the student non-voting member who has been seated on the ALRC since August, is quite capable of offering his expertise and opinion when needed in his current capacity similar to ours. At the end of the 3 year period, if it is determined that there is a value to having a student on the ALRC as a voting member, that decision will be made at that time. In the meantime, I will continue to do my best in my position on the ALRC representing my constituency of Class A, and Class B license holders throughout the city as a non-voting member.

As the owner of the Nitty Gritty, I am disappointed that you are apparently not able to separate my longtime ownership of the Nitty Gritty from that of serving as a representative of the Madison-Dane County Tavern League on the ALRC.

Marsh Shapiro

Owner, The Nitty Gritty 

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