Liquor ordinance study committee the right move

THE PROCESS OF CONSIDERING the liquor license application for the Generations inter-generational center proved to be time-consuming, contentious and divisive.

One good thing that may have come out of the up-and-down, denied then approved then vetoed then upheld roller-coaster of a process – the decision to appoint a study committee “to review the liquor license ordinance in its entirety for the city.”

That committee will be appointed by the mayor after it was approved by the City Council last month.

Along with the decision to appoint the study committee was a moratorium on issuing any new liquor licenses until the committee completes its work.

That last provision drew some opposition from members of the council and kept the vote for the proposal from being unanimous – but it shouldn’t be an obstacle.

The moratorium is not set in stone and the council is more than capable of making an exception to it should circumstances warrant.

For instance, with the recent closing of a convenience store/gas station in the city, a class B retail beer license is now open. Should the now vacant store be bought by another operator who wants to utilize it, the council should be able to waive the moratorium and issue the license with no trouble.

The more contentious licenses – tavern and retail liquor licenses – are limited by either state law (tavern – one per 500 population, only one still available) and local ordinance (retail liquor – four, all taken).

There might be another interested applicant for the one open tavern license in the time it will take the study committee to complete their work, but it doesn’t seem likely. If there is an applicant, it is likely that they would be willing to wait for a few months until the moratorium ends.

In the meantime, the ongoing controversy over the Generations license brought to the fore some aspects of the city’s liquor ordinances that definitely need review.

One of those requires that the Police Department be notified of all events open to underage people at a licensed facility and proscribing alcohol sales or service until the next day following such events.

That restriction dates back decades to a time when taverns would offer teen night non-alcoholic events from time to time, a practice that has long since been abandoned, leading to the ordinance not being enforced.

Should it be, it would undoubtedly prove a hardship for current license holders like the Plymouth Arts Center and Antonio’s/ Antoinette’s/Amore, which often host events open to the general public – including under-age people.

The committee should also push for some kind of provision under state law that would separate retail liquor/tavern licenses issued to for-profit businesses – like bars and restaurants – from those for non-profit groups and agencies that do not utilize them on a daily basis for business purposes.

Other states make such distinctions in their licensing laws and it may be time – if not already past time – for Wisconsin to consider the same.

The study committee will have a huge challenge ahead of them, but it’s work that needs to be done and will be worthwhile for the city as a whole.

At issue:
Study committee, moratorium
Bottom line:
A wise step

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