City Council Recap – Part 2

Posted February 8th, 2017 @ 7:41 AM by

Here’s Part 2 . . . Part 3 will have the remaining 4 issues the council talked about, including MG&E influence on development in the Isthmus and the panhandling ordinance. Part 3 will have to be tonight or tomorrow as the meeting ended less than 8 hours ago and and I spoke to two of the issues and I haven’t had time to blog myself . . .

State St. Alcohol License
It’s 10:00 and we’re on item 4. Motion is to deny. This is an alcohol license for a bar on State St. The owner speaking through a Mandarin Chinese translator says this is the third time I am here to speak, she has mixed feelings. She is happy to see them, she had trouble expressing herself in the past and is nervous now. She hopes she can get their support tonight. She has invested $300,000 in the restaurant. There are many restaurants in the area and it is a food street, restaurants or bars on the left and right of her property. If I don’t get an alcohol license it will be difficult to manage the restaurant. She pays over $1000 a month in rent, she has to also pay on the $300,000 she borrowed. She would like to change the business time of the restaurant. She will have it open at Sunday – Thursday 11 am to 10 pm and Friday and Saturday 11am to 2am. She would like to have 70% food and 30% alcohol. She emailed many of them what she wanted to say.
She understands that you support more retail on the street. The retail that was there closed because they didn’t have enough business because it is mainly a food street and that is why retail did not survive there. She hopes they can understand her position, she is willing to answer any questions.

There are no questions.

Mike Verveer moves to adopt the report of the ALRC and deny the license.

Larry Palm wants to understand more. He asks if the retail report was adopted, when did the applicant do the work, then file for the license, he wants to understand the sequence.

Ledell Zellers says that she can’t can’t support the license, there are 4 things that led her to this, she has supported 3 other licenses since she has been alder, 2 caused no issues, one has. There are several reasons she is not supporting this license, not in any priority order. One is the mix of uses on State ST. She says she brings it up now, and not for the others, is because the December 19th report was released by the consultants, there is a concern that state st is changing to a bar/restaurant st, or Bourbon St. of the north. If we belie that the welfare of the downtown is served by a mix of uses, then we need to take the report to heart. We have seen a steady decline in retail stores and they are not likely to recover the retail spaces when a commercial kitchen has been put in. The second issue, to Palm’s issue, the applicant is making the argument the license should be granted because $300,000 has been spent. It disturbs here that people would invest that kind of money assuming they will get a license, its not a done deal. On Nov 28th she met on site with the owner and asked if the lease or purchase was contingent on a license. She says alcohol licenses should be pro forma. Just because the applicant did not do their due diligence, should not be a reason to grant the license. She is also concerned about the concentration of the licenses on this block, but this block has had more than its share of issues. In this block there is a capacity of nearly 1000 people. One of the other relatively new restaurants is a police problem because it morphs into a bar late at night. She thinks for the health safety and welfare of the community she agrees the license should not be granted. She is also concerned that the applicant is now willing to reduce the hours of operations, she thinks it too little too late. She says the weekend hours are later than they discussed at the ALRC. She also is concerned about the conflict of it being a restaurant and staying open to bar time. She said she would serve food all night. She says she wouldn’t agree to the earlier closing time after being asked multiple times at ALRC and she thinks that this isn’t sufficient now. She says Alder Verveer has other issues he is aware of, she is unable to support granting this license.

Verveer says he takes no pleasure in agreeing with Zellers that this application should be denied. He has talked to her one on one and he feels bad about the money and understands that she is now willing to make some changes. The council will see the study – it will be introduced at the next council meeting. He says that this is different from other licenses that the council granted, mayor vetoed and then council over-rode. This is a full alcohol license, not just beer or beer and wine. The other examples had higher food percentages. The two points he made were that the 500 block of State ST. is a problem on weekend evenings. The city has provided overtime funds for years to have extra officers during late hours in this area, along with the 600 block of University. This is where the extra officers on overtime are located. The other concern, and it might not be fair to blame her for actions of her relatives, but the family has has had numerous issues at Osaka House for the restaurant being a nightclub on weekend evening hours. He has concerns granting the license at this time given the property owner is the same in both establishments. The same family has significant experience operating restaurants and own significant property. He believes that she has a formal lease, but he is not comfortable with this close connection at this time, and the problems they have had with two other restaurants at this time. He also says that American Apparel did not close because of State ST, they shuttered their stores nationwide. It might seems like an alcohol license is a right, but it is truly a privilege. 99% of the time or more, the council gives deference to the ALRC, he thinks it is important to take time from time to time to look at these licenses and he hopes that they agree with ALRC tonight.

Paul Skidmore also opposed and asks them not to change the recommendation. He says adding another bar in this area will be a challenge. A license is a privilege not a right and he thinks ALRC made the right decision.

Mark Clear wants to be clear that they are judging the applicant on the merits of hte application and the proposal and not the area or the family. He says that would be troubling. We want to make sure we don’t have a double standard and if we are going to change our policy about licenses in this area, we should do it based on policy and not on the merit of the proposals before them.

Shiva Bidar says that she voted no to the denial. But she supports the ALRC, they had 2 meeting on this license. She says this has been challenging to see this unfold in the process, it has pointed out systemic barriers to opening a business in this city. Many of whom are immigrants and we do not have a really well structured process for people who want to make an investment in this city to get good advice and hear all the issues that there might be. She does not think that we have a good process for these businesses. As we hire a deputy clerk to work with applicants, we should make sure that we get the word out that people should come and talk to them first, because by the time they get to ALRC its too late and they have made an investment. She says here is another issue with language access. If we want a moratorium on licenses, then we should take that vote, we should not do this case by case.

Mayor Paul Soglin asks Attorney Michael May to review how they can deny a license. He says it should not be based on the family activities, but on the other factors discussed. Verveer says that he would ask the council to deny it base don the location only. If this was a beer or beer and wine and was a restaurant that closes at a reasonable time, he would be ok. This is a full liquor license open til bar time. You can hold him to that. Verveer says that the applicants family purchased the property and the night club manager that runs the establishment across the street has been in and out of the building. But he says that the is all about location, location., location and the health safety and welfare of the community. She can open a restaurant without an alcohol license tomorrow.

Zellers agrees with Bedar that it would be helpful to have someone in the city versed in alcohol licensing, it would also help alders. To alder Clear’s point, the inconsistency of the claim of restaurant and dogged holding on to bar time closing and the kind of license and the location – 500 block, all contributed to my unwillingness to support this as a license.

McKinney says that she is concerned about barriers to communication, disorientation and language. She wants us to be clear about what we are doing. She understands the health of the neighborhood, but when you have a small business owner that invests $300,000 into a business, there has to be a mechanism to help the person understand the fabric of the community. She is struggling with this because she knows the work of the ALRD, why did this person make this investment, but she walks away thinking that we have to do better as we seek to support small businesses. She isn’t asking to overturn, but we need to look at how we support new businesses in the area.

Motion is to deny, it was denied on a voice vote.

The applicant was told multiple times she could not speak, but she is crying and talking anyways and the mayor is telling her that she cannot speak but she stands there speaking anyways. The mayor says that even the council members cannot speak. Bidar, McKinney and Baldeh are trying to figure this out. Paul Skidmore moves a 5 minute recess. That is approves and during the break she continues talking and crying and melting down. No one seems to know what to do, and no one, despite their efforts is being successful in persuading her that this is over and the vote is done. No one is being very persuasive. She might take a step or two towards the door, but then continues to want to speak – and she speaks and cries. They try to coax her into the hallway, but she keeps coming back in and crying and talking. When they finally get her into the hallway after what seemed like an eternity, they call the meeting back in to order. 3 alders (Baldeh, Bidar and McKinney) are still in the hallway talking to her.

The mayor uses the privilege of the chair, on a point of information, and he asks the council to examine the dates of the meetings, the papers filed in building inspection and dates of other issues related to this property.

Other PUblic Hearings
6 – Harry’s Market – no registrations, grant with 7 conditions is the motion, hearing closed, Verveer says conditions 8 and 9 are added and are at their places. No discussion, motion passes.

7 – 9 pass as recommended on a second motion, 8 & 9 are re-referred.

Item 10 is adopted under suspension of the rules with public speakers and no discussion.

Items 11 – 15 pass as recommended on the agenda with no public speakers and no discussion.

4 more issues (16, 18, 33 and 74) to be discussed in Part 3 . . . the meeting lasted over 6 hours . . .

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