University Square bar could be doomed

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Johnny O’s has been dealt strike one (or two), Kollege Klub is on the ropes – where will the Coasties go next? If they knew what was good for them they’d be lobbying Ald. Michael Schumacher, a member of the Alcohol License Review Committee who opposes the creation of a new bar at University Square…right next door to Lucky Apartments.

I discussed the matter with Schumacher yesterday. Schumacher not only opposed the original plan – an enormous restaurant/sports bar with a capacity of 900 – but he was one of two members of the ALRC  to vote against “referral,” meaning he did not believe that Scott Acker, the developer, could amend the plan to comply with his demands.

Schumacher has only one demand and it’s very simple: That there be no bar at University Square. There can be a restaurant. It can stay open until 2 a.m. It can serve liquor. But it can’t be a bar and it can’t generate the majority of its revenue from alcohol sales. Part of this opposition is rooted in a legal obligation to abide by the city’s alcohol license density plan, which was enacted in 2007. However, Schumacer was a vocal supporter of the density plan and its goals in the first place, so repeal of the ordinance would be unlikely to sway his vote.

Bryon Eagon, an alder who does not sit on ALRC but as a student representative naturally has a great interest in alcohol issues, supports the restaurant, and is perhaps referring to it as such with the knowledge that opponents such as Schumacher support more eateries, just not more watering holes. Obviously Schumacher is not going to bite – he’s looked at the guy’s plan and he told me he doesn’t think the economics of the place clearly spell out a bar operation – a place that becomes a drinking spot at night and closes at 2. Drink specials, loud music etc.

Interesting, Eagon is either ignoring that reality or he believes Acker can do what’s necessary to make it a restaurant, not a bar.

The project designed in the U Square space is not a bar, it is a restaurant before all else. Will it serve alcohol? Yes, but in order to receive the alcohol license, the operation has to follow the percentage of food vs. alcohol sales that requires more food than booze. I really think that what will draw patrons to this space will be atmosphere and games first, food second, and alcohol third.

Yes but a capacity of 900, dependent on Badger sporting events? Sounds tough to swing. There has to be some other way for them to make money, and long island iced tea specials for the girls at Kappa Delta will likely bring in more cheddar than all the cheddar cheese curds sold to Sconnie families after football games.

But Eagon has a strong argument nonetheless, which appeals to any person who has been under 21 in Madison and lacked the sufficiently credible fake ID or the sufficiently feminine figure necessary to enter many-a-light night establishments:

This restaurant would provide a safe and fun place for the thousands of 18-20 year olds in the campus area to hang out, especially late night. 18-20 year old students need options. Those in that age range have severely limited options if they want to hang out with friends in a social atmosphere, with many choosing behind the closed doors of dorm rooms and in the crowed apartments or basements in off campus houses or apartments.

I remember feeling in many instances that people forget what being underage is like the day they turn 21. Or how frustrating it can still be when you’re 21 but many of your friends still aren’t. People who complain about it are derided as having alcohol-centric social lives, but it’s not about the alcohol, it’s about the socializing. Especially in the winter, when you’re cooped up in your apartment or dorm all the time – you just want some place to go and get out, and unfortunately almost all places are closed off to minors (meaning minors who can serve in war and vote) after 9 pm.

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4 Responses to “University Square bar could be doomed”

  1. Anonyies Says:

    I think Bryon’s strongest argument is the fact that the chances of another management team wanting to invest this much money in these economic times is highly unlikely. Millions have already been invested in the restaurant’s infrastucture and to tear it down would only waste another (at least) couple million. Why not let a good management crew, as they have proved themselves through their successful management of Quaker Steak & Lube, come in and make something of the place? As long as they follow the food vs. alcohol sales, capacity, etc. regulations, why not? Hard to swing? That might be true, but that shouldn’t be of importance to the City. First, they should just give Acker and his team a chance.

  2. Ordinary Jill Says:

    I suspect Marsh Shapiro is behind much of the opposition. This big new restaurant/sportsbar could severely cut into the Nitty Gritty’s business, at a time when he is trying to find a buyer for the place (and probably asking much more than it is worth right now). He has been a successful businessman (and friend of the city’s movers and shakers) for many years now, far longer than the newcomers on the block. Yes, they have successfully run Quaker Steak & Lube, but isn’t that in Middleton? In local politics, it isn’t what you know, but who you know.

  3. Dusty Says:

    “Yes but a capacity of 900, dependent on Badger sporting events? Sounds tough to swing.”

    True enough, it’ll be tough to suck 900 people into the place every time, but a business doesn’t have to be at capacity to turn a profit. In fact, I doubt this place would rarely if ever reach capacity. The bar/restaurant/whatever that everybody’s so cranked off about is only a fraction of Acker’s business plan, which also includes catering to wedding receptions and large-scale business meetings.

  4. Beyond the Talking Points Says:

    See you at Trivia tonight?
    http://beyondthetalkingpoints.wordpress.com/2009/08/24/trivia-night-at-city/

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