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Monday, February 06, 2023
Rick Patri

Rick Patri, the attorney for the new owners of Johnny O's, discusses emphasizing safety at the University Avenue establishment.

Alcohol License Review Committee discusses Johnny O's, HopCat Madison

Members of Madison’s Alcohol License Review Committee discussed the new ownership of the corporation that runs Johnny O’s as well as a possible new Gorham Street bar, HopCat Madison, at their Wednesday evening meeting.

After clearing up paperwork confusion and application practices, the new owner, the Rudy family, was approved to close and begin renovations on both bars at the University Avenue property, with a firm emphasis on safety.

“What we’re really trying to get is the 600 block of University off the police radar,” Rick Patri, the Rudy family’s attorney, said.

The committee also deliberated approval of HopCat Madison, a bar proposed to take over the former BOP retail store and Quaker Steak & Lube locations, just off of State Street. The business model proposed a sustainable local business dedicated to specialty craft beers. Hop-Cat Madison plans to invest $3 million and create over 180 jobs at the Gorham Street location.

Controversy centered around the hours during which food was served, the establishment closing time, the question of retail opportunities and State Street’s strategic plan.

The food issue was resolved with a stipulation by committee member Thomas Landgraf for food to be available at all times during hours of operation.

Hop-Cat Madison agreed to rework the closing time, per the committee’s request, after it goes through a trial period.

Mayor Paul Soglin threatened a veto citing alcohol density concerns, according to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4. However, Verveer responded that Hop-Cat Madison would avoid those problems because it would not be located on State Street.

A short-lived question about whether the committee wanted another bar in the area was dismissed because members, including Verveer, Urban Land Interests Principal Tom Neujahr and Ald. Lisa Subeck, District 1, felt retail has proved it cannot survive in the space .

“[Retail] died of natural causes,” Neujahr attested, regarding the attempt to fill lease vacancies.

ALRC also approved Madhatter’s liquor license without debate.

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