By Lisa Dawsey Smith
Whitewater Banner staff
At a virtual special meeting on June 30 the Common Council granted a 50% reduction in the alcohol license fees for those that are held by establishments that serve beer, wine, and/or liquor by the glass for the 2020-2021 year that begins July 1. In introducing a proposed ordinance that would grant a 25% fee reduction, Council President Lynn Binnie indicated that he felt a one-time concession would be in order due to the fact that during the Safer at Home order taverns were closed and restaurants were not allowed to have sit-down dining. Other council members suggested a higher fee reduction, taking into account that sales may be tenous going forward. Council member Matthew Schulgit, a UW-W senior, expressed reservations about whether the return to campus will be fully successful, potentially resulting in significant loss of tavern patronage. A motion to adopt the 50% reduction was supported on a 6-0 vote, with McKinley Palmer absent. There are 23 establishments with “Class B” licenses for both beer and liquor, which will pay $300 for the year instead of the usual $600.
Lynn Binnie commented to the Banner that he felt the reduction was an appropriate gesture of support for small businesses in this unprecedented time. “By the way,” Lynn continued, “it’s always something of a relief when having a six-member meeting doesn’t result in a tie vote. The vast majority of our votes are unanimous, but there’s something about being down a member that often results in mixed opinions leading to a tie.”
Prior to the meeting, Council members had received emails from two licensees, advocating consideration of a fee reduction. The Banner reached out after the meeting to one of those individuals, John Cordio owner of Beer Here, who offered the following comment: “I would like to thank the city council for action they took in reducing the license fee for the period 2020-2021 year. Their actions show me and other bar and restaurant owners that the common good of our industry was taken to heart during these uncertain times.”