JANESVILLE—A proposed tavern and restaurant on Janesville’s east side is drawing opposition from residential neighbors who say they don’t want the traffic and noise a bar could bring.
A group including local tavern and restaurant operator Ed Quaerna seeks a class B beer and liquor license to operate Rooster’s Barrel and Wagon Works, a new restaurant and tavern that would occupy the east side of the Fairview Mall, 2100 E. Milwaukee St.
The proposed restaurant and tavern would occupy the east half of the 20,000-square-foot mall and include an outdoor patio with a proposed bar on the building's east side. Parts of the operation could be less than 100 feet from homes along South Concord Drive, according to floor plans submitted to the city.
The city’s Alcohol License Advisory Committee after a public hearing July 11 recommended that the city council approve a class B license. Permission for outdoor music at the establishment was not recommended.
The business could open as early as January if approved, according to plans.
No one from the neighborhood surrounding the mall spoke at the July 11 meeting, but some residents have given council members an earful since the meeting.
Bruce Raufman lives on Wesley Avenue across the street from Fairview Mall.
Raufman sent council members an email that called a planned tavern at the location an “outrage” that would clash with his quiet, residential neighborhood.
In an interview this week, Raufman told The Gazette he wants the city to deny the Class B alcohol permit.
“It goes beyond what’s tolerable in a neighborhood where you’ve got a lot of kids and elderly people, and that’s what this neighborhood has,” Raufman said. “We all know what happens at bars at closing time. I’ve closed them down before. You can get fights, screaming, upset boyfriends and cars peeling out. That doesn’t fit in a (residential) neighborhood like this. In my opinion, it’s an absolute no. I’d be calling the police a lot.”
Raufman said he and other neighbors got a noticein the mail prior to the city's July 11 hearing on the liquor license request. He said the notice was vague and didn’t seem to give much information on the scope or nature of the business seeking the license.
The notice also listed the address of the applicant at 2100 E. Milwaukee St., which Raufman said might have misled nearby residents. Major access drives for the mall are located a half-block east of Milwaukee Street on South Harmony Drive and Wesley Avenue.
Raufman said some residents, himself included, assumed the liquor license request was for one of the strip malls located on East Milwaukee Street, not Fairview Mall.
“This may explain why no persons from the area of Wesley Avenue had bothered to show up at the (July 11) alcohol advisory committee meeting,” Raufman wrote in an email to the council obtained by The Gazette this week.
The city’s own property search database and a list of nearby properties to which the city mailed notices of the liquor license application show the tax address for the Fairview Mall as 15 S. Harmony Drive.
Janesville property developer Jim Grafft is listed in the city's property registry as the owner of Fairview Mall.
Grafft’s daughter, Britten Langfoss, and Quaerna are listed in city liquor license application documents as the major stakeholders in the proposed restaurant and tavern project.
The Gazette on Tuesday could not reach Quaerna or Langfoss for details about their proposal or for comment on emerging opposition from neighbors.
Cara Arena lives on Wesley Avenue, about 100 feet from the east side of the mall. Arena said she is worried about traffic if a tavern went in next door. During an interview in her front lawn, she watched a young girl and a parent ride past on bicycles.
“There are a lot of kids in this neighborhood. I’d be really worried about impaired drivers coming in and out of the parking lot of a tavern,” Arena said.
The liquor license application is for the city’s one remaining class B license. It could go in front of the city council as early as Monday, council member Paul Williams said this week.
Williams also is on the Alcohol License Advisory Committee.
Williams said he started hearing from neighbors who oppose the restaurant and tavern plan after the ALAC’s July 11 meeting. He said the opposition didn’t surprise him considering the plan would be a change in pace at a business property that is surrounded by homes.
Williams said that in hindsight, it might have been a good idea for the developers to have held a neighborhood meeting to discuss the restaurant and tavern plan.
“When you’re changing dramatically the characteristics of a business in the neighborhood, you’re better off to meet with them (neighbors) to hear their concerns instead of trying to go through the normal (city approval) process. Send out a letter, and say, ‘See you at a meeting.’”
Gary Klubertanz lives along South Concord Drive, about 100 feet from the mall. He said he likes the idea of a tavern next door.
“It’d be sort of like Milwaukee. I like those neighborhood bars. It’s less distance to drive for some, and for some, they can just walk.” Klubertanz said. “I’d be in favor. If there was ever noise or problems at the place, I’d feel comfortable just walking over and talking to the bar's manager. That’s how I am.”