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Sunday, October 01, 2023
Mark Woulf

City Food and Alcohol Policy Coordinator Mark Woulf said alcohol-induced crime remains a problem in the State Street area.

City Council extends alcohol policy, discusses new downtown initiatives

City officials are discussing changes to alcohol regulations on and around Madison’s iconic State Street, where it connects to campus, and evaluating several initiatives as part of an ongoing effort to reduce alcohol-related crime in the area.

The conversation comes on the heels of Common Council’s July 2 approval of a six-month extension of the city’s Alcohol License Density Ordinance, which restricts the number of certain types of liquor licenses the Alcohol License Review Committee can sanction downtown, previously set to expire Aug. 1.

According to the ordinance, the total number of liquor licenses held inside ALDO’s border increased roughly 125 percent between 1997 and 2006, and in 2005, the Madison Police Department reported the highest percentage of “alcohol-related incidents” occurred in the State Street area.

In a June 2013 presentation of the ALDO annual report, City Food and Alcohol Policy Coordinator Mark Woulf said although alcohol-related calls for service have decreased since ALDO’s adoption in 2007, alcohol-induced crime remains a problem and has become “more concentrated” around the 500 block of State Street and the 600 block of University Avenue due to several high-rise student apartments going up in those areas.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said he hesitates to attribute ALDO entirely for the positive outcome because “crime has statistically declined throughout the city, throughout the state and, in fact, the nation during the relatively same time period,” and because “there’s no way to categorically credit or fault ALDO for improving public safety downtown.” He added he is committed to exploring the best options for controlling alcohol abuses in the downtown area.

In response to the declining trends, the ALRC is recommending the city implement a more compact alcohol policy enforcement border, called the State Street Overlay District, to “[create] an additional layer of scrutiny and review for the outlined uses,” according to the recommendations report.

The proposed SSOD, which the report says “aims to replace a blunt-force object where a scalpel is necessary,” would set in after ALDO expires.

Other changes to downtown alcohol regulations include developing a more comprehensive set of establishment definitions, to be applied city-wide, from the current distinctions of either “tavern premise” or “premise” to include 25 different business types varying from “coffee bar” to “arcade” to “cocktail lounge.”

Verveer said the new definitions will inform the city’s liquor license application process, benefitting the cause to increase 18-plus entertainment downtown.

Furthermore, the report says “by grouping all establishments into two categories, restaurant or tavern, we miss the ability to simultaneously attract new, exciting types of businesses, and regulate the types that would have an adverse impact on the health, safety and welfare of the community.”

Common Council will vote on the recommendations before ALDO’s new expiration date Jan. 1, 2014.

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