A day without taverns on State Street?

Jack Craver from the Capital Times wrote a great response to a piece I wrote in Isthmus (for PDF of the print version, click the image below) about proposed alcohol policy changes in Madison. I wanted to take a moment to respond to some of the areas he highlighted to clarify a few points.

SSOD Bar Trouble paper edition copy

In his article, Craver asks “Could there really be a day when there is not a single bar on State Street? That’s what an article published last week in Isthmus suggested … Whether the effect of the proposal would be that dramatic, however, is subject to considerable debate.”

I never meant to suggest that all bars would disappear.* Notice the wording in my third paragraph: “Within this district … no taverns, nightclubs or cocktail lounges could replace existing businesses at their respective locations. In effect, State Street could become tavern-free by attrition as owners sell or close their businesses.”

My point was all taverns (not bars) could be eliminated. As both Craver and I pointed out in our articles, wine and beer bars would be allowed. Wine and beer bars use Class B beer and Class C wine licenses.

Taverns in Madison, as they currently are categorized, are establishments that get more than 50 percent of their income from alcohol sales. Additionally, nearly (if not) all taverns use combination Class B liquor licenses on State Street that allow them to sell liquor, as well as wine and beer. The new policy would eliminate any possibility for Class B combination licenses in the future. Like Craver said, Mayor Soglin doesn’t like liquor’s prevalence on State Street.

Because the taverns in the proposed district use these licenses and these licenses would no longer be grandfather-able, owners would not be able to resell their taverns or change their business’ ownership. As each business closes with owner retirement or bankruptcy, the number of taverns in the proposed State Street Overlay District permanently decreases by one. A ban on the grandfathering of these licenses is a de facto end to the existing taverns in the proposed overlay district.


*The title “No new bars on State Street” is confusing, and I also used “bar” and “tavern” interchangeably throughout the article – I did not believe, then, the technical distinction was important for a general readership. Writing the word “tavern” over and over again also felt tiresome.


One thought on “A day without taverns on State Street?

  1. Pingback: Talk radio with Bennet about alcohol policy | My Husband's Trophy

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