Mayor vetoes Generations liquor license

PIC ‘shocked, disappointed,’ mulls next step
by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The council giveth and the mayor taketh away.

A day after the City Council reversed its earlier decision and granted a liquor license to the Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition for the Generations Center, Mayor Donald Pohlman Wednesday vetoed the council action.

“We were shocked and we are so, so disappointed,” Generations Executive Director Joann Van Horn Wieland said of learning of the veto.

The council had voted at their July 29 meeting to reverse their April denial of the city’s last available class B liquor license for Generations by a vote of 4-3, with Alderman Jack Fernsler absent.

That followed discussion in the council’s Committee of the Whole meeting and an evidentiary hearing before the council.

In his veto message, Pohlman cited four reasons for overturning the council decision:

. A state prohibition on granting a license to any establishment with 300 feet of a school – the Generations center includes the Head Start program and Growing Generations day care.

. “(A) liquor license does not coincide with the public purpose and mission of the Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition … The city of Plymouth did not anticipate that this facility would have alcohol sales when deciding to be part of the … concept and providing public funding.”

. “(T)he primary purpose of the facility ... is not substantially related to liquor sales or a restaurant.”

. “The liquor license would be used primarily for private events and would not be open to the general public.”

In his statement, Pohlman added, “I have listened very carefully to the facts and testimony presented. Proper consideration of public sentiment and local concerns has been evaluated in reaching this decision.”

Van Horn Wieland, however, questioned whether there were other motives behind the mayor’s veto.

“It totally baffles us as to what the real reason was,” she allowed. “Is there someone or something that they’re holding this license for? Does that seem fair?”

She said she felt Generations and its supporters had answered all of the objections listed by the mayor during Tuesday’s meeting, noting that a majority of the council members had been persuaded to grant the license.

One of Pohlman’s objections was based on a city ordinance which requires that any licensee who holds an event on their premises where underage people are present must wait 24 hours before being able to sell liquor again.

Under the mayor’s interpretation, that would mean the Generations center’s only window for events with alcohol would be on Saturdays, since there are underage people on the premises Monday through Friday.

Police Chief Jeff Tauscheck, at the council meeting, had explained that the ordinance in question had been adopted many years ago when local bars held teen nights, a practice that has not been followed for decades, he said.

“The mayor’s reasoning has to do with an ordinance that is very obscure and needs to be taken off the books anyway,” Van Horn Wieland stated.

“I did say to him that I hope there is going to be implementation and enforcement (of that ordinance) for everyone else in the community. I can’t believe all of those other businesses and entities are going to be happy with that,” she added.

Van Horn Wieland also insisted, as she and other speakers at the council meeting had, that events with alcohol sales at Generations, “has always been a part of our business plan. We’ve always been transparent with that.”

She stressed that the additional income from such events – class reunions, wedding receptions and other parties – is essential to helping PIC keep their budget balanced and keep rents low for the nonprofit groups that are Generations tenants.

“We would like to be in a position to be able to lower their rents rather than raise them,” Van Horn Wieland emphasized.

She said PIC is weighing its options at this point.

The group could seek a council override of the mayor’s veto, but that would take a two-thirds vote of the council – six yes votes.

Fernsler supported PIC’s application in April, but missed last week’s meeting as he prepares for pending heart surgery.

The group could also appeal the decision in Sheboygan County Circuit Court.

“We’re keeping all our options open and exploring our other legal options,” Van Horn Wieland stated. “We’re just not going to roll over and play dead.”

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