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600 block University Avenue (copy)

600 block of University Avenue

Months after Madison Mayor Paul Soglin called for a moratorium on new alcohol licenses downtown, the City Council adopted a separate resolution that aims to pull together interested parties and seek solutions for alcohol-related problems in the area.

Downtown Alds. Ledell Zellers, District 2; Mike Verveer, District 4; and Zach Wood, District 8, sponsored the resolution, which directs the city finance director to analyze alcohol density in Madison.

"This is a citywide alcohol outlet density study by city staff, not just a downtown-focused endeavor," Verveer said. 

The City Council voted to place the mayor’s proposal on file. Soglin proposed the moratorium on new alcohol licenses downtown in January following heightened concerns over alcohol-related problems.

Soglin later altered his proposal to also create a 13-member task force discuss alcohol policy for the city. 

Under the adopted resolution, the study will examine if there is a disproportionate share of city services being delivered in dense areas of the city. The resolution recommends working with downtown stakeholders, neighborhood associations, members of city committees related to the downtown and public safety and UW-Madison officials.

The analysis may be used to develop recommendations for policy changes, which could include ordinance changes, intended to reduce the density of alcohol establishments and improve accountability. 

The city currently has a provision that serves as a moratorium on certain businesses in 500 and 600 blocks of State Street, the north side of the 600 block of University Avenue, the 400 blocks of North Frances and West Gilman streets and the west side of the 400 block of North Broom Street. This provision is scheduled to expire July 1. 

"This is an issue that will certainly be before the next council," Verveer said.  

Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, said he is frustrated the effort has taken months to come to a decision. He supported the adopted resolution but still thinks a moratorium could be an option in the future.

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Skidmore said the issues facing the downtown are more complex than the number of establishments offering alcohol and that it stems from a greater cultural problem.

“Is it perfect? No. Is it going to get us going in the right direction? Yes,” Skidmore said. “We’re going to come up with recommendations as to how are we going to solve problems.”

The finance director will update to the Alcohol License Review Committee in January and April of next year and will complete a report with any potential changes in policies and regulations by May 31, 2019, according to the resolution.

In other action, the City Council approved issuing a request for proposals to seek programming for businesses, nonprofits or other groups to implement at the top of State Street. The city has been working to revitalize this area to curb negative activities in the space such as littering, fighting and drug use.

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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.