Liquor license study committee on right path

THERE SEEMS TO BE some confusion on the part of some people just what exactly the city’s Ad Hoc Liquor License Study Committee was established to accomplish.

The committee was appointed last fall by Mayor Donald Pohlman, at the direction of the City Council, to review the city’s entire liquor license codes with the goal of making recommendations to the City Council for any revisions, updates or changes they determine are needed.

The committee has been meeting regularly and has been diligently working through the city’s liquor license ordinance.

It’s not an easy task. The city rules and regulations for liquor licenses – covering everything from one-day beer sales to taverns and restaurants to retail liquor stores – cover more than two dozen pages. And the committee has to balance them against the state laws which proscribe local codes – and those are, not surprisingly, even more voluminous than the city’s ordinance.

While the committee grew out of last year’s controversy over an onagain, off-again liquor license for the Generations inter-generational center, that was never the sole purpose or focus of the committee’s work.

Earlier this week, an article in the Sheboygan Press included criticism of the committee’s “plodding approach” which it said “is still irking the group the rewrite was meant to address.”

Even the headline on the story, “Nine months in, Plymouth still working on liquor laws,” was misleading.

The committee was appointed in October and began meeting in November, so to say it is “nine months” into its work is incorrect; six or seven months would be more accurate. A small point, to be sure, but still off the mark.

And the committee was never intended to address issues pertaining to any one group, the Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition or any other group. It was intended by Council President Charles Hansen - who moved for its creation – his colleagues on the council and the mayor to address all of the city’s liquor license rules, which it is doing.

There are many more issues for them to deal with than just one rejected liquor license and that is what the committee is doing.

They have looked at the number of retail liquor store licenses in the city, rules for defining the premises of a liquor license holder, what constitutes abandonment of a liquor license and many more topics, with more yet to come.

As for the license for Generations, some of the issues that led to the veto of the license after it was first approved, and the upholding of Mayor Pohlman’s veto, are prohibitions and restrictions contained in state law, not in the city’s ordinances – and that’s outside the purview of the study committee, no matter whether it takes a month to finish its work or a year.

If there are concerns about changing those rules, the issue should be taken up with state legislators and not with a city committee.

It may well be that state action is needed to create another class of liquor licenses for non-commercial or non-profit organizations and groups which want to serve liquor for intermittent events or functions, but are not a tavern or a restaurant or other business that serves alcohol as part of its regular business.

In the meantime, the committee is on the right path to complete the work it was tasked with, in a deliberate, thoughtful and precise manner.

There’s an old saying about committees that holds a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee.

The Ad Hoc Liquor License Study Committee may, to some, be proving that statement true. But it is also true that a camel is an appropriate and efficient animal for the places where they exist, so maybe a committee creating a camel is doing their job right after all.

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