In an effort to curb problems related to drinking near the 600 block of University Avenue, Madison’s alcohol licensing committee Wednesday recommended prohibiting eight bars from allowing patrons to enter or re-enter after 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
The new rule is one of a number of strategies, including using ID scanners, that the city is trying to incorporate, either through license conditions or by seeking voluntary compliance from bar owners in that area of downtown.
“Our consistent problem is people showing up after 1:30 a.m., and they've been somewhere else, have been drinking somewhere else, and they're just coming downtown for the end of the night,” Madison Police officer Bart O’Shea said at the Alcohol License Review Committee’s special license renewal meeting Wednesday.
Applying the rule as a standard across all bars in the area would discourage groups of people from coming downtown near bar time, said O’Shea, a member of the Central District's community policing team.
If approved by the City Council, the new rule would apply to the following bars:
- Liquid/Ruby, 624 University Ave.
- Wando’s Bar, 602 University Ave.
- Church Key, 626 University Ave.
- The Double U, 620 University Ave.
- State Street Brats, 603 State St.
- Roast Public House, 558 State St.
- Red Shed, 406 N. Frances St.
- Blue Velvet Lounge, 430 W. Gilman St.
Liquid/Ruby owner Michael Hierl objected to making the new rule mandatory and said that the establishment has voluntarily been refusing entries after 1:30 a.m.
“We’ve been running so clean and investing so much money and so much effort into what we’re doing, I think our voluntary effort would continue,” Hierl said. “There's no value in letting people in after 1:30 a.m. because it’s all risk and little reward.”
Wando’s owner Jay Wanserski said the new customers he would lose with the rule would not hurt his three-story drinking establishment too much. At that hour, he said Wando’s is not “making a ton of money.”
Last summer, the 600 block of University saw an increase in violence. One disturbance at 2 a.m. on June 11 led to a homicide at a Vernon Avenue parking lot.
“We've all got to pitch in and help,” Wanserski said. “It got ugly last year.”
Committee members questioned how the rule would be applied to circumstances where a patron leaves the bar to smoke or to make a phone call. However, MPD Central District Capt. Jason Freedman said the re-entry rule gives officers the authority to investigate a situation if needed.
“Because we have this, doesn’t mean it will equate into a citation,” Freedman said. “We’re not going to be looking for trouble if there isn’t any. This is one of many opportunities to address the problem.”