The future of alcohol sales in Madison was again the center of debate at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting as council members differed from Mayor Paul Soglin.
Contentious discussion began when the council held a public hearing over a new liquor license for Chen’s Dumpling House on the 500-block of State Street.
Just over a month ago, on Jan. 3, the council voted 9-7 in favor of overriding Soglin’s veto of a liquor license for the new Taco Bell, also located on the 500-block of State Street. The council needed 14 votes to override the veto.
Not only will Chen’s Dumpling House be located on the same block as Taco Bell, but it is also within the confines of the mayor’s proposed alcohol moratorium, which stretches from State Street to Camp Randall Stadium.
Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 4, said it’s imperative the liquor license is granted for the incoming family-owned business to stay competitive. But Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, District 1, says liquor issuances can’t be arbitrary.
“If the reason for the vote is that we want to limit the licenses in that 500 block, there have to be some consistencies,” she said.
At the meeting Soglin showed support for Chen’s license. However, as of late, he has expressed general concern for the assumed allowance of liquor licenses in the city.
“I’ve got a view that the sale and consumption of alcohol is coming at an incredible economic and human cost,” he said, citing a CBS News list that ranks Madison as the fourth “drunkest city.”
However, Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, believes Soglin’s moratorium will have an adverse effect that “will likely lead to vacant storefronts on State Street and elsewhere in the area if restaurants aren’t permitted to serve even beer, let alone a full liquor license.”
Soglin says he’ll continue to fight the issuance of new licenses, even if the council won’t.
“I see this is a really big, expensive, dangerous problem,” Soglin said. “For some reason, the council doesn’t.”
Soglin added that he wants to do everything possible to curtail the volume of alcohol in the city.
The council also voted to uphold the mayor’s three vetoes related to an ordinance change that would allow alcohol to be dropped off to customers in their cars who order from “click and collect” establishments like Wal-Mart or Pick 'n Save.
The services allows customers to order their groceries online and have them be delivered to their car when they arrive at the store. As it stands, individuals need to enter the store to pick up their alcohol.
Verveer, who sponsored the ordinance, expected the override to pass however was absent due to the flu.
In the mayor’s official veto, he cited a lack of safety as a primary cause for concern.
“A sale completed in the store provides better lighting and the ability to identify the purchaser,” he wrote, adding that the ordinance could be a hindrance to smaller, more local liquor stores that will lack the parking space to compete and include click and collect services.
Members who were absent for this first meeting can decide to reconsider the override a final time at the council’s next meeting Feb. 27.