By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — The city’s liquor license subcommittee on Tuesday chose Downtown Grocery to receive the city’s sole available regular liquor license, which means the newly remodeled store could be serving alcohol early next year.
The committee’s recommendation will be considered Dec. 18 by the public health and safety committee before moving on to the full council for a final vote. The earliest that could happen is Jan. 9.
The city’s 68 regular liquor licenses, a number set by the state based on population, are in high demand in Wausau because they cost just $600, compared to the $10,000 fee set for the city’s reserve licenses.
Three other businesses — Mountain Lanes, Jenny’s Family Restaurant, and a yet-to-be-named business owned by Tyler Vogt planned for N. Third Ave. were also vying for the license.
Some municipalities had found ways around the state licensing law, which critics say discourages new business. In Shorewoood, for example, officials there in 2012 created a workaround that allowed the village to “grant” new businesses $9,400 after they paid the $10,000 reserve license fee.
But changes at the state level have made that practice illegal, said Council President Lisa Rasmussen, in a September email to Wausau Pilot and Review.
With so much competition for liquor licenses in Wausau, Rasmussen said she hopes the state revises the quota soon.
“Based on the quota issues that many communities face with the full class B licenses that these places are seeking, Wausau is hopeful that the allowed allotment will be reexamined by the state soon, as it has been about 20 years since any change has occurred,” Rasmussen wrote. “And reserve licenses represent a major expense hurdle for new start ups in a climate where we are looking to encourage growth in business.”
“Managed well, and with proper controls and expectations, communities facing these issues could safely issue a few more licenses without a significant detrimental impact to the work being done to curb issues in Wisconsin surrounding underage consumption, OWI, binge drinking, (and) alcoholism.”