The Taco Bell Cantina coming to State Street will be able to sell late-night wine and beer, after city officials approved its alcohol license Tuesday.
The restaurant had originally planned to serve hard liquor as well, but the Alcohol License Review Committee recommended last month to limit sales to wine and beer. The committee also proposed that it would only serve alcohol until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The Common Council approved the license with these conditions despite some members voicing their concerns with adding another alcohol vendor to the downtown area.
Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, voted against the license and said he has no issues with Taco Bell Cantina specifically, but rather with “the location and the situation surrounding it.” He called for the creation of a committee to examine the “alcohol-fueled problems” in the downtown area.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin was absent from the meeting but sent an email to council members early Tuesday that echoed Skidmore’s concerns. He said there was “little public value” in granting the restaurant an alcohol license.
“We have more than enough liquor outlets in our city,” Soglin wrote.
These comments spurred debate over whether the city should be consistent in approving licenses for similar types of restaurants or look at each case on a separate basis.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said while he was not enthusiastic about granting Taco Bell Cantina a license, the council should not deny it given the concessions the restaurant made. He urged members to look past its reputation as a national franchise and focus on the precedent of the council’s past approval of partial licenses for similar restaurants in the area, such as Koi Sushi and Lotsa Pizza.
“They are not whole liquor licenses, they are beer and wine only, and we all acknowledge that they have good operators,” Verveer said.
Central District Police Capt. Jason Freedman did not oppose the license, but wants to see a consistent, long-term strategy that addresses alcohol vendors in the downtown area and how they contribute to “the extremely chaotic and dangerous situations that take place.”
Representing Taco Bell Cantina, Vice President of Real Estate Pat Eulberg noted the safety and security precautions the restaurant will have in place to combat these types of situations.
The restaurant is set to open this month, according to its business plan.