Janesville City Council approves controversial liquor license request

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Jake Magee
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

JANESVILLEDespite almost unanimous opposition from neighbors, the Janesville City Council on Monday approved a liquor license for a proposed restaurant and tavern in the Fairview Mall.

The approval comes with restrictions recommended by the council's Alcohol License Advisory Committee.

The Rooster's Barrel and Wagon Works restaurant will have no outdoor seating or music. The entrance facing Wesley Avenue will be an emergency exit only, and it will close at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The committee originally recommended approval without restrictions besides no outdoor music. But neighbors found out about the proposed development and complained, prompting the Janesville City Council to send the issue back to the committee.

Restaurant operator Ed Quaerna met twice with concerned neighbors near the mall.

During the first meeting, neighbors emotionally pleaded their case, saying they didn't want a tavern so close to their homes in what's usually a quiet neighborhood. Council President Doug Marklein said the second meeting was calmer.

Still, neighbors showed up Monday to ask the council to deny the license.

Those who spoke noted the committee's recommended restrictions but said they weren't enough. One neighbor said such a business belongs downtown, not near a residential area.

During the meeting, Quaerna asked the council to allow the business to be open until 12:30 a.m. to compete with Applebee's and Buffalo Wild Wings. He also requested permission to make the Wesley Avenue door an entrance because many patrons will park on that side.

"This is a commercial property that has had two restaurants with alcohol licenses in it before," he said.

Councilman Jens Jorgensen made a motion to deny the license, but it failed for a lack of a second. Jorgensen was the only council member to oppose granting the liquor license. Councilman Paul Williams was absent.

"It's a tough one for the residents that live in that local area," Marklein said.

However, Quaerna has the right to locate a business in the Fairview Mall, he said.

"It's a mixed-use neighborhood. It always has been," Councilman Tom Wolfe said.

Responding to suggestions that the business locate downtown, Marklein said the council is not in the business of telling a proprietor where to operate.

Councilman Rich Gruber said he appreciated the restrictions the committee recommended. He and Councilwoman Sue Conley encouraged Quaerna to be a good neighbor to upset residents.

"It's going to be critical to its success," Conley said.

After the council granted the license and neighbors started to shuffle out, one neighbor took a moment to shake Quaerna's hand.

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