Janesville’s Alcohol License Advisory Committee is workshopping an ordinance revision that would maintain the city’s class A liquor license quota but change the parameters of how many licenses are allowed and when exceptions can be made.
The committee met Friday afternoon to discuss an ordinance proposed by city council President Sue Conley that would eliminate the class A license quota. No action was taken.
City ordinance says the city can issue 19 class A licenses, which are held by establishments that sell alcohol for off-site consumption. It can exceed that quota when an application would promote the expansion of trade for an existing business, help redevelop an underutilized property or add a new business to the city.
The quota is based on one license per 3,500 people in the city, as calculated by annual population estimates from the state Department of Administration, said Dave Godek, city clerk-treasurer.
Reconsideration of the quota is a topic the committee and city council have discussed for months. The debate stems from a recent disagreement between the two bodies over what constitutes an appropriate exception.
Committee members have expressed concern about allowing an infinite number of liquor stores in the city, geographic clustering of liquor stores and protecting existing small businesses. However, at least two committee and council members have pointed out it is not in elected officials’ purview to protect businesses from competition.
After more than an hour of discussion, the committee decided it will consider approving a recommendation at its January meeting to expand the class A quota to one license for every 2,500 people, which would absorb all existing licenses. The recommendation also would eliminate the exception for existing businesses that apply as a means of expanding their businesses, and it would cap quota exceptions at two over the limit.
Committee members asked that Economic Development Director Gale Price speak at the January meeting about how liquor licenses aid economic development and what kinds of parameters would help keep the city’s alcohol licenses at a reasonable number while also promoting development.
Members said they are concerned that a strict quota would tie the city’s hands in bringing in new business, especially when the south side needs a grocery store.
Committee Chairman Paul Williams floated the idea of allowing exceptions to the quota only in one part of the city. However, other members said that could cause complications and scare away businesses that might want to develop outside of that area.
The city council will consider the class A ordinance at its Jan. 25 meeting. The council could vote in line with the committee’s recommendation or negate it and come up with its own solution.
Committee members also want to explore whether the panel should include another industry representative who would represent class A licensees.
The committee currently has one industry representative, Kevin Riley, who owns Riley’s Sports Bar and Grill. Members argue there should be a class A representative and a class B representative.
Class B licenses are for establishments such as taverns that sell alcohol for on-site consumption.