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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Ordinance changed to target underage parties

City officials refocused Wednesday an ordinance meant to curb large house parties to more specifically address the problem of underage drinking in downtown Madison.

The Alcohol License Review Committee reduced Mayor Paul Soglin's 17 ""requirements"" that designate a party a nuisance down to five to more effectively tackle the city's main goal: to control large, uncontrollable house parties that draw excessive underage crowds.

The committee identified underage drinking as one of the five ""requirements"" needed for a party to be designated a nuisance. Overcrowding and excessive noise are also among the ""requirements.""

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One of the ""requirements"" removed from the draft was a controversial piece of the ordinance that allowed police to enter house parties where a keg is visible from the outside. This  was originally implemented to prevent underage drinkers from flocking into a house party.

According to Downtown Alcohol Policy Coordinator Mark Woulf, there have been issues on the southwest side of campus with out of control after-bar parties, but the goal of the ordinance is not to target those of drinking age.

The committee also reconsidered a controversial part of the ordinance that could result in police fining the landlord on a tenant's second nuisance party offense.

The committee said it wants to script the provision to ensure ""active"" landlords are separated from inactive landlords who neglect preventing tenants from throwing another rowdy house party.

The committee said a landlord could be considered ""active"" if he files a complaint against the tenant for not abiding by regulation or if the landlord works with city officials to try and prevent a tenant's second offense.

""If the landlord is active enough to be meeting with the city attorney and the police department then those landlords should not be subject to a fine,"" Woulf said.

Alder Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 5, said she would like to see alders present in steps between the city attorney and landlord to ensure landlords are following up with their tenants. The idea is not currently in the ordinance but may be revisited at a later date.

Madison Police Department Captain Mary Schauf asked committee members to postpone a decision in order to grant the police department more time to review the entire ordinance.

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