Wednesday’s meeting of the Alcohol License Review Committee went faster than expected, with two potentially contentious items--a major expansion for T Sushi, and a revocation of license for Logan’s Madtown--deferred to later dates. At the same time, approval of a new coffee/wine/beer establishment under Metropolitan Place was lengthy and controversial, with a number of concerns raised about the completeness of the menu and ability of the establishment to function as a restaurant.
Brasserie V - 1923 Monroe
The Belgian-themed restaurant and bar received consent agenda approval to expand into the empty space next door at 1921 Monroe St., previously home of Premier Couture. Brasserie V owner Matthew Van Nest requested and received a capacity expansion from 46 to 99, allowing for a second bar and 43 seats in the new space, but no other aspects of the restaurant will change.
The Fountain - 122 State
The committee approved The Fountain’s requested expansion via consent agenda, paving the way for the restaurant to take over the interior hallway between its State Street frontage and the bakery next door. Restaurant capacity was not increased, and remains at 275 indoors and 36 outdoor.
T Sushi - 301 W. Johnson Street
T Sushi owner Teddy Stevens leases the entire building that houses upscale sushi restaurant T Sushi. At the ALRC meeting Wednesday, he said the first-floor restaurant’s popularity was leading to long waits for customers during the lunch and dinner rush, and as a result he was losing business and operating in the red. Saying expansion to the currently vacant second floor was the best solution, he requested permission to expand upward--approximately 2,500 square feet--and bump his capacity from 67 indoor/28 outdoor to a total of 300. He also wanted to add a bar to the upstairs level, and two additional sushi cases downstairs, with the idea that servers could bring orders upstairs by elevator.
Concerned already with the large capacity increase, the committee expressed additional concerns that Stevens had originally said he would not seek to operate on the second floor of the property. Saying the proposal had “the makings of something other than what you’re proposing,” committee member Thomas Landgraf asked Stevens if he would be willing to close the upstairs portion after 10 p.m., when overflow needs were presumably lower, to which Stevens agreed. The committee also questioned Stevens’ longterm goals, citing his previous entertainment license request (placed on file without prejudice) and capacity expansion request (granted for outdoor seating), both after he’d stated he’d seek neither.
The lengthy discussion concluded on a technicality: because Stevens had not included the required proposed floor plan for the new seating area, which Alcohol Policy Coordinator Mark Woulf said should have forestalled the application from even reaching the ALRC, the committee ultimately referred the T Sushi application to the November ALRC meeting.
Metropolitan Coffee and Wine - 329 W Mifflin St.
By far the longest conversation of the night centered on whether Yedong Tao would receive a beer and wine license for the establishment he was opening on the ground floor of Metropolitan Place. Saying he hoped to create a social space for the residents, and a lunch and coffee space for nearby workers, Tao came under scrutiny for a limited menu (18 food items compared to 21 alcoholic options) and a dearth of specifics about how he would realize his eventual goal of serving sandwiches and bakery products. Tao said that by opening early in the day and limiting the time of alcohol sales, he thought he could keep alcohol sales down to 40 percent of the total.
Metropolitan Place resident Robert Holloway registered concerns that the establishment’s intention to stay open past 10 p.m. on weekends could inadvertently turn it into more bar than restaurant--concerns that Madison Police Captain Carl Gloede echoed. “If I look at the picture in my mind, it looks like a bar,” he said. Ald. Mike Verveer, noting that the space has been empty since Metropolitan Place was constructed in 2006, said he thought the building’s condo association and abundance of vigilant neighbors would be adequate watchdogs of whether the establishment fulfilled its stated role of remaining largely a coffee- and wine-focused space.
Still, committee member Michael Donnelly moved against approving the license, saying it would be easier to wait to approve after Tao had been given time to refine his plans than to revoke the license later if the decision proved detrimental to the neighborhood. The license was ultimately approved 4-2, with committee member Ann Zanbie also voting against. The committee, however, placed several restrictions on the license that Verveer said Tao could apply for at later meetings, including limiting alcohol sales to before 10 p.m. every day of the week, and requiring him to submit his food/alcohol percentage breakdowns six months after opening.
A La Brasa - 15 N Broom
South American restaurant A La Brasa has been open exactly thirteen days, and according to owner Cynthia Gutierrez, business is going very well so far. On Wednesday, she appeared before the committee to request a liquor and beer license so she could add Mexican, Peruvian and Colombian wine, beer, and cocktails to the menu. Asked to limit her alcohol-serving hours to 10 p.m., she responded that many of her customers worked late and wanted to be able to eat dinner at a restaurant where they could also drink. Her license was approved on the condition that alcohol sales end at midnight.
Cheba Hut - 453 W Gilman
Richard Wooton, who plans to open a franchise of counter-culture-themed sandwich shop chain Cheba Hut, said having a beer license would help the establishment compete with delivery-oriented sub shops such as Milio’s and Jimmy John’s. He compared his shop to sit-down craft pizza restaurants such as Roman Candle and Pizza di Roma. Committee members briefly discussed whether Wooton’s seven-year-old marijuana possession conviction would legally bar them from approving his holding of such a license--city attorney Roger Allen said the interpretation was up to the committee--and unanimously approved the request on the condition that alcohol sales cease at midnight daily.
Logan’s Madtown - 322 W Johnson
The city of Madison is seeking to revoke the license for Logan’s Madtown, claiming that the 395 indoor/100 outdoor capacity restaurant is behaving more like a bar than a restaurant. The restaurant was licensed in 2009 under the condition that it adhere to restaurant distribution of sales, with less than 50 percent of its sales from alcohol, but a city audit between May 2011 and May 2012 found the establishment consistently in violation, with 67 percent of sales coming from alcohol on average. Logan’s manager Adam Mais appeared Wednesday to say the establishment was seeking legal council in response to the revocation, but that he had no other response to the charges. The committee agreed to delay proceedings at least two weeks.
Full disclosure: ALRC member Michael Donnelly sits on the Dane101 board of directors, and has contributed to Dane101 in the past.