Taco Bell (copy)

On Tuesday, Madison's City Council approved a settlement agreement with Taco Bell, resolving a dispute over an alcohol license.

Madison’s City Council signed off on a settlement agreement with Taco Bell Tuesday, settling a dispute over a request from the fast food restaurant’s State Street location to serve alcohol.  

The approval means that the city will issue a beer and wine license to the Taco Bell Cantina, located at 534 State St., in the next 15 days.

The license will allow the Taco Bell Cantina to serve wine and beer until 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday each week, and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Taco Bell will have to meet the city definition of a restaurant and have food available at all times.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway previously said that Taco Bell should be treated like any other applicant.

"What I’ve said before and still maintain is that it is not appropriate for us to deal with the issue of liquor licenses on a one-off veto basis," Rhodes-Conway said April 30. "We need to work on a policy that is comprehensive.”

The settlement agreement concludes a yearlong legal dispute that was preceded by several votes on the City Council floor and a veto from former mayor Paul Soglin.

Madison’s City Council first approved a beer and wine license for the State Street location in December 2017. Then, Soglin vetoed the license Dec. 12, 2017, saying that allowing the Taco Bell to serve alcohol would have “little public value.”

The City Council attempted to overturn Soglin’s veto twice but failed both times. In April 2018, the franchise owners sued the city over the alcohol license.  

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In a complaint filed April 13, 2018 in Dane County Circuit Court, Bell Great Lakes, LLC alleged that the city's denial of the alcohol license was "unlawful and discriminatory" when considering the city's prior restaurant liquor license approvals and current policy.

At the end of December 2018, the court ruled in Taco Bell’s favor and ordered the city to issue the license. However, in January of this year, the city filed a notice of appeal with the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

After the license is issued, the city and Taco Bell will file a joint motion to vacate the Circuit Court decision. The city will also move to dismiss the litigation. The parties are agreeing to cover their own costs and attorney fees.

City Attorney Michael has said a settlement agreement is beneficial to the city because it would avoid the possibility of a Court of Appeals decision with statewide precedential value that could limit the authority of issuing future liquor licenses.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.