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Sunday, December 03, 2023

Taco Bell alcohol ban is misguided

Taco Bell has plans to open a new cantina-style restaurant on State Street, bringing students both Nachos Bell Grande as well as liquor. However, this plan was put to a stop by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, who vetoed the issuing of a liquor license for the restaurant under the concern that it would not be good for the future and atmosphere of the State Street area.

The city of Madison is no stranger to drinking culture. UW-Madison was ranked the top party school in the nation according to the Princeton Review in 2016, and it is consistently in the top ten of the rankings each year.

The drinking culture at UW-Madison is not going to be instantly solved by taking a liquor license away from a restaurant not even on campus.

Drinking is something that is synonymous with Wisconsin culture. In a state where Miller and Pabst Blue Ribbon were founded, the saying “Drink Wisconsinbly” is taken as religion and the average winter temperature is below freezing, alcohol is very close to the heart of Badgers.

However, Mayor Soglin and other members of local government want to help erase this party reputation that somewhat marrs UW-Madison’s reputation as an upstanding and academically excellent research institution.

State Street has undergone a revival over recent years. What used to be a seedy party street with lots of bars, dives and clubs has now begun to transition into a boutique and family-oriented stroll to the Capitol building. This new atmosphere is not a bad change — it makes downtown Madison a more welcoming place for families and tourists alike.

However, it also does not cater to the 44,000 students that are mere blocks from State Street, and who are most directly feeling the impacts of the change.

Taco Bell has been rolling out new Cantina style restaurants, which are more upscale than their usual locations. This upgraded style would fit perfectly with the new look of State Street, as well as offer a cheaper and more accessible culinary destination for college students.

Chipotle and Qdoba both have locations on the main drag, but a Taco Bell would bring cheaper prices and options for Mexican food lovers. However, unlike traditional Taco Bell locations, these cantinas serve alcohol in addition to staple favorites, which makes it counter to the new wave of State Street change.

Soglin fears that a Taco Bell serving alcohol would erase all the upward climbing that has been done on State Street. However, a fast food restaurant with cheaper prices than the other options for students would help better cater to student populations of State Street, which is the most important patron in the area considering its proximity to campus.

Soglin should not be worrying about how families see State Street, but instead should be serving the constituents who actually use it with a sense of frequency.

A Taco Bell that serves alcohol would also bring more students to the area, which would help to stimulate the other businesses on State Street. A ripple effect would be good for concert halls and stores on the street, helping increase sales and improve the economy of the downtown area.

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Soglin’s choice to veto the liquor license is one of good intention, but is ultimately misguided. The drinking culture and party vibe of UW-Madison goes deeper than just campus culture — it is a statewide way of life.

Simply trying to erase the immediate reputation by taking out all the restaurants and bars on State Street is not serving the population of students who are looking for cheap places to eat after a night on the town.

Samantha is a junior majoring in communication arts and journalism. What are your thoughts on Taco Bell’s liquor license controversy? Send any comments or questions to

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