Proposal to add liquor licenses sent back to committee

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

JANESVILLE--An ordinance that would have increased the number of Class A liquor licenses available in Janesville isn't dead, despite a 4-3 Janesville City Council vote against it Monday.

It's going back to the alcohol license advisory committee for fine-tuning requested by Councilman Jim Farrell.

Farrell said he would request language to allow small, niche business such as Basics Cooperative Natural Foods to sell organic beer and wine.

The ordinance that failed Monday would have increased the number of licenses available to retail stores that sell prepackaged alcohol. It would have lowered the ratio of one license per 3,500 people to one license per 2,500 people, raising the total by seven. Janesville has 19 Class A licenses but none is available.

The ordinance also would have allowed a super majority of the city council to issue additional licenses individually if all licenses are filled.

Farrell, who had said he favored increasing the number of licenses, did not agree a super majority should be required to issue additional individual licenses. He prefers a simple majority, he said.

A second alcohol proposal would eliminate regulations that require businesses to essentially maintain separate areas if they sell alcohol, including separate checkouts and bathrooms.

Some small businesses owners, such as Basics, that would benefit from an available license likely could not afford to maintain separate areas for alcohol.

Farrell said he would ask the alcohol committee to consider rules that would make exceptions for small niche business such as Basics.

Farrell said he had supported the separation requirements until he realized the harm it would do to small niche stores.

“I think we could have exceptions,” Farrell said. “The people that are abusing alcohol, that are getting arrested for DUIs, are not going to specialty liquor stores.”

“Granted, we're not adding dozens of jobs,” Farrell said, “but it is our responsibility to the small business owners to try to help them out.”

The council likely has the votes to support such changes.

Councilman Douglas Marklein, contacted Tuesday, said he would favor something to help small retailers.

Councilman Matt Kealy, who is chairman of the alcohol commission, has said he would favor eliminating the separation. Mark Bobzien, a newly elected council member whose first meeting is April 28, agrees.

Those council members who continue to vote against increasing the number of licenses are DuWayne Severson, Brian Fitzgerald and Sam Liebert.

Marklein agreed the votes could be there to make more licenses available and for loosening the separation requirement for some businesses.

Ryan Garcia, economic development coordinator, said the alcohol license advisory committee likely would discuss the liquor license issue Tuesday, May 6. It would return to the city council Monday, May 12.

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