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Janesville City Council to allow Hy-Vee, other grocers to have bar-restaurant inside supermarket


Hy-Vee cleared a big hurdle in its plans to develop a $20 million, combination grocery store/bar restaurant at a former Shopko in Janesville.

In a unanimous 7-0 vote, the Janesville city council OK’d a recommendation to peel back a longtime city rule that requires retail alcohol sales areas in grocery stores to be separated or “boxed in” by solid walls.

The rule change will pave the way for Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee to design a grocery and liquor store with an open-layout restaurant and bar in a food court area inside the 97,000-square-foot former Shopko at 2500 Humes Road.

The change comes along with a few tweaks to other related ordinances governing retail alcohol sales.

Under changes the council approved Monday, any retail grocery seller would be allowed to create spaces within a store for dining that could include a bar and alcohol sales. A state law change that went in place last year allows retailers to sell carryout alcohol and operate bar-restaurants inside other retail locations under a single, class B license, provided city ordinances permit it.

Some council members have said approving ordinance changes would give the city its own, updated framework of retail liquor sale rules at a time when state law essentially allows retailers such as Hy-Vee to operate grocery and liquor store in tandem with a bar-restaurant.

Janesville City Council President Douglas Marklein said the council’s approval of the ordinance changes shows a city staff and council that are taking a more progressive and innovative view of retail development.

“I’m very pleased that this blight we have on one of our busiest (commercial) streets will be redeveloped. This is turning a negative into a big positive. It reinforces that Janesville is becoming a more and more regional shopping area,” Marklein said. “And I love the idea that the council and the staff are open to new ideas. These opportunities will help other existing retailers to think outside the box and bring other new ideas to our retail area.”

Hy-Vee has publicly shown preliminary plans that would put a food court along with a Wahlburgers restaurant and bar within a full-service supermarket. It’s a concept Hy-Vee has been rolling out in markets across the Midwest over the last few years, including in the Madison and Milwaukee metro areas.

Hy-Vee’s head of government relations, Tyler Power, told the council that Hy-Vee intends to require people who dine at the bar and grill and food court to consume alcohol in only the restaurant and food court section, not elsewhere in Hy-Vee’s attached grocery store.

City Economic Development Director Gale Price said the city doesn’t intend to permit Hy-Vee to sell carryout alcohol from its bar, and Power said Hy-Vee intends for its liquor store to be separated from its grocery store with a separate entrance.

Power last week made similar statements to the city’s Alcohol License Advisory Committee, which also unanimously supported the requested ordinance changes.

Hy-Vee officials have said they’d like to fast-track the Janesville project with a goal to open the store and bar-restaurant sometime in 2022.

City council member Susan Johnson asked Power what Janesville locations Hy-Vee looked at besides the former Shopko on the northeast side.

Johnson pointed out that the retail-heavy northeast side of Janesville is flush with multiple grocery and dining options, but the city’s south side, where thousands of people live, no longer has a full-service supermarket since Pick n Save closed in 2017.

Hy-Vee has a smaller-format grocery store model called “Dollar Fresh” that the company has used in small-market communities in rural Iowa. Power said Hy-Vee is aware that the city of Janesville has no supermarket on the south side.

Power said Hy-Vee plans to continue to talk with the city about the idea of some kind of a south-side grocery, saying the discussions are part of Hy-Vee’s “commitment to the city.”

“Let’ get this (northeast side) store open first. We‘d like to think it’ll do really, really well,” Power said.

Obituaries and death notices for Dec. 14, 2021

Thomas J. Abb

Carroll Anderson

Phyllis A. (Clark) Bingham

Ralph E. Blair Jr.

Donald Blumer

Henry A. “Hank” Brill

Owen Emerson Brown

Frederick Gerald “Jerry” Churchill

Eugene Dewey

David L. “Dave” Ehlers

Sandra Lee (Greene) “Tam” Erdman

June J. Halverson

Rojean Luella (Schmidt) Hansen

Deborah L. Hilton

Roberto J. Juarez

Sandra Kay Lewis

Germaine Niemeier

Alfred H. “Al” Pinnow

Shirley J. Ruosch

Sherman Lee VanAntwerp

Katherine Ann “Kathy” Wuksinich

Area law enforcement grapple with COVID deaths in the ranks

The last two years have been deadly for local law enforcement officers who have contracted COVID-19. After the death of a Beloit police officer from complications brought on by the virus, stateline area authorities are reflecting on the hundreds of virus-related officer deaths impacting communities across the country.

Beloit Police officer Daniel Daly, 48, died Nov. 15 from COVID-19 complications. On the same day, 20-year veteran Wisconsin State Patrol Master Trooper Dan Stainbrook, 42, also died from COVID-19-related illness.

COVID-19 was the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers in 2020 and 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, an organization that tracks officer deaths nationwide. In the last years, nearly two-thirds of all law enforcement deaths in the United States have been due to COVID-19.

In 2020, a total of 384 law enforcement deaths were reported to the organization. Of those deaths, COVID-19 killed 253, or 65.8%. As of Dec. 9, 447 total law enforcement deaths have been reported nationwide. Officer Down Memorial data shows 295 of of this, 65.9%, could be blamed on the virus.

Janesville Police Chief David Moore said the hundreds of law enforcement deaths were “clearly a tragic matter that will continue to grow.”

Another organization tracking COVID-19 deaths nationwide, the Fraternal Order of Police, reports an even higher number of virus-related deaths among law enforcement since the pandemic began in March 2020. The organization reports that as of Dec. 12, 816 officers have died from COVID-19.

Virus-related officer deaths are tracked using media reports and submissions from police departments nationwide as no data is tracked centrally by one organization, resulting in differing figures.

“This is the best data we have,” said Ryan Windorff, president of the Wisconsin State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. “We knew from the beginning that law enforcement would be heavily impacted by this where other industries have adapted to remote work. It’s not an option for public safety officers. I think the trends show it’s a threat we take seriously and has an impact on how we do our job.”

The threat to local officers

Rock County, Wisconsin, and Winnebago County, Illinois, law enforcement officials who spoke to Adams Publishing Group all said the invisible threat posed by COVID-19 has changed the way officers go about their jobs.

“It goes without saying that the world is facing the toughest battle many of us have witnessed in our lifetimes,” Beloit Police Chief Andre Sayles said.

“Behind the numbers are families and children that lose their loved ones while police departments and communities struggle with the deaths,” Moore said. “Officers have been trained for years to handle a variety of threats that can result in death or great bodily harm from armed encounters to high speed pursuits or assaults. COVID-19 offers a new and different threat to our officers’ lives.”

Rock County Sheriff Troy Knudson added, “We don’t always have the luxury of not going to an important call based on the health status of the reporting person or suspect. The virus just became one more threat to the officers who were out in the community doing their jobs.”

South Beloit Police Chief Adam Truman said the high number of officer virus-related deaths showed COVID-19 can continue “to strike anyone, at any age, in any profession.”

Officers’ vaccination rates unclear

There is little data regarding law enforcement COVID-19 vaccination rates nationwide, as police unions across the country fight vaccination mandates.

Windorff said the Fraternal Order of Police opposed a vaccine mandate while advocating for personal freedom of law enforcement personnel in Wisconsin to choose whether to be vaccinated.

“Our position is that any individual who is healthy and doesn’t have an exemption from vaccination should seriously consider receiving it, and we encourage that,” Windorff said. “It’s not unique to law enforcement. There’s a divide among vaccine acceptance nationwide.”

Local COVID-19 vaccine data is also scarce. Jessica Turner, a spokesperson for the Rock County Public Health Department, said the public health agency did not have public safety vaccination rates among Rock County agencies “at that level” when asked for individual department figures.

The only local glimpse into public safety COVID-19 vaccination rates came early in the pandemic when the vaccines was first offered to frontline workers.

As of Jan. 26, the Beloit Police Department reported 53% of department employees were vaccinated while 42.1% of Beloit Fire Department employees were vaccinated. Since initial reporting by Adams Publishing Group, the City of Beloit has stopped tracking vaccination data of employees in city departments including police and fire.

Sayles said getting vaccinated was “an individual right.”

“I firmly still believe in that, but I would certainly encourage people to” get vaccinated, Sayles said.

Truman emphasized personal freedom when discussing vaccinations. “I respect those that do and those that don’t get vaccinated,” he said.

Knudson said the sheriff’s office recommended deputies and jail staff get vaccinated “for their own protection and to ensure that they don’t unknowingly carry the virus and expose others.”

Moore said the science behind vaccinations and the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines is “clear.”

“With millions of Americans that are vaccinated, the science continues to support the vaccine from both a safety perspective and effectiveness standpoint,” Moore said. “Officers are placed in a difficult position as they are often in a dynamic fight or struggle and continuous wearing of the mask is difficult if not impossible. COVID-19 exposures are inevitable, which exemplifies the importance of being vaccinated.”

Town of Beloit Police Chief Ron Northrop declined to comment when contacted by a reporter.

Benefits for survivors available

Early in the pandemic, former Republican President Donald Trump signed the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020 that extended death and disability benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program to public safety officers who die or become injured as a result of the coronavirus. The legislation marks COVID deaths as a line-of-duty fatality that triggers benefits to deceased officers’ families. The bill was extended by Democratic President Joe Biden on Nov. 18.

Going forward, Windorff said police departments must focus on the wellness and mental health of officers as virus looks likely to threaten their lives for years to come.

“Losing someone in the department is a horrible situation and it’s akin to losing a family member,” Windorff added. “We’re dealing with the pandemic and we’ve dealt with anti-law enforcement sentiment, along with a record number of officers leaving the profession. All of those things create an environment where the mental health of officers is a top priority.”

The Navy side of Janesville’s VFW Post 1621 make it clear what side they were rooting for during the 122nd meeting between the Army and Navy football teams. Janesville VFW officials said the various raffles, food and craft sales and donations were expected to reach $9,000 for area causes.