City News

Before city officials even debate, proposed arcade bar dividing neighbors

A proposed arcade-style bar on Willy Street has divided community members on the necessity of another drinking establishment in the neighborhood. 

Image By: Ben Frawley

City council members are scheduled to discuss a new liquor license for a proposed arcade bar on Willy Street at Tuesday’s meeting, but the plan has already divided local residents.

I/O Arcade Bar, which would be located at 720 Williamson Street, would be filled with vintage arcade games and pinball machines. The tavern would serve food along with alcoholic beverages, although their application proposes sales would be 80 percent alcohol.

However, opponents argue that more drinking establishments simply aren’t necessary in the city. This is a view also supported by Mayor Paul Soglin who proposed an alcohol mortarium in the city’s downtown region. I/O Arcade Bar would be outside of the proposed moratorium.

In an email to the ALRC, resident Dan Nordstrom asked the city not allow the project based off of its capacity in comparison to nearby bars and the general supply of bars in the area.

“[Large] new bars like this should not be rushed through the permitting process, especially when there are already so many other bars nearby,” he wrote.

The estimated capacity of the bar would be 250 people.

Supporters of the bar say opponents misunderstands the mission of the bar and its value in a neighborhood where such an establishment doesn’t exist.

“Other young professionals like me would enjoy having a location in this neighborhood where drinking is not the main focus and where we can meet like-minded people,” wrote another resident, Beth Gelhar. “I believe that our neighborhood, with all of its new high-rise apartment constructions targeted at people like me, would really benefit from an establishment like this.”

In their proposal, I/O Arcade Bar identified their clientele as college students, young professionals and competitive gamers.

The ALRC is recommending the council re-refer the item back to the committee for public hearing.

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