Two guys walk into a bar, grab a couple beers and decide to take their drinks outside to join others participating in the downtown Janesville kickoff to the MDA Tub Run.
But wait. Then the two learn they can’t take their beers outdoors, even though the Tub Run kickoff is happening in the closed street right outside the bar’s front door.
Is this a joke?
Barry Badertscher, chairman of the Janesville Alcohol License Advisory Committee and one of the Tub Run’s organizers, learned about this arbitrary rule last year when he was trying to set up the event.
Common sense dictates a bar should be able to sell beer and wine for an outdoor event, and customers should be able to carry their drinks from the bar to the event. But when it comes to alcohol rules, common sense often doesn’t apply.
That’s why a new ordinance is needed to make downtown more business friendly, allowing bar customers to join a special event with their drinks in hand. The ordinance would benefit event-goers and businesses alike while eliminating headaches created from confusion surrounding current restrictions, which Badertscher said aren’t being always followed, anyway.
We don’t mean, of course, that people should be allowed to drink booze along city streets anytime. The proposed ordinance would apply only to special events along a closed street and would not be an invitation to tolerate public drunkenness or drunken driving.
Police would still be expected to enforce alcohol-related laws regardless of where people are drinking.
City officials and event organizers should make it a priority to promote moderation and the use of designated drivers. It would take only one tragedy or drunken brawl for city officials to regret loosening alcohol sales rules and revert to a stricter standard.
Badertscher’s experience last year demonstrates why the ordinance change is necessary. Organizers at the last minute had to obtain a temporary alcohol license to sell beer and wine outdoors during the Tub Run, even though nearby bars could have easily supplied the event, which closed off Main Street between Milwaukee and Wall streets.
“It was horrible,” Badertscher recalled. “We weren’t as successful because of it, for sure.”
He noted four bars missed out on revenue from the Tub Run because of the restrictions.
As the downtown ARISE initiative gains momentum, changing this rule will become more important. With the recent opening of a new town square and creation of a business improvement district, event organizers are likely to reconsider whatever misgivings they previously had about downtown Janesville. It’s not hard to imagine a business with a liquor license opening on the section of River Street that will be converted next summer into a festival street with retractable barriers at each end.
More events and activities downtown is surely a good thing, but organizers and event-goers must feel welcome. Arbitrary rules can sour feelings toward a venue, and city officials cannot afford giving organizers an excuse to go elsewhere with their dollars.