City alcohol rules could hamper development, committee members agree

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Marcia Nelesen
Wednesday, January 8, 2014

JANESVILLE--Most members of the Janesville Alcohol License Advisory Committee agree with staff recommendations to loosen alcohol regulations they believe create barriers to economic development.

One suggested change would eliminate the quota on Class A licenses, which allow the sale of packaged alcohol for consumption offsite. Nineteen Class A licenses are available, and all are taken.

The second change would remove the requirement that retailers separate the sale of alcohol from the sale of other goods.

The changes would not apply to taverns.

Ryan Garcia, economic development coordinator, said the license quota is an arbitrary number that can be changed only once a decade. He said the market should be allowed to decide the right number of Class A liquor licenses.

The requirement to separate alcohol sales can place a burden on retailers, he said.

“It does establish unique circumstances where a business has to effectively build (another retail store),” Garcia said.

The city already has tools in place to regulate licensing and protect public health and welfare, he said.

Committee member Carrie Kulinski said the city should continue separating liquor from other sales, noting the rule was drafted to discourage underage drinking.

It's clear the ordinance works, she said, because surveys show only 1 percent of Rock County youth who drink get their alcohol from convenience stores, food stores or gas stations.

“Some people might say this is outdated, but from the prevention side this is forward thinking and this is responsible,” she said.

She said youth now see minimal alcohol advertising when they shop in stores, and research shows advertising affects attitude and perceptions about drinking.

The remaining committee members supported the recommendations, although several had some suggestions.

Councilman and committee member Matt Kealy did not agree with a suggestion that would require 24-hour surveillance cameras in stores licensed under the modified ordinance. Businesses already holding liquor licenses would not be subject to the requirement.

“If the cameras are that important, then everybody should have the cameras,” Kealy said.

Staff also suggested gas stations be allowed to sell only beer and wine, but Kealy disagreed with that limitation, as well.

The proposed ordinance would not allow self checkout for alcohol except in stores that already have self checkout installed.

The ordinance change would require that liquor be locked up from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

A pubic hearing before the council will be scheduled in February.

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