Unused licenses shut out others who would use them if available says committee chair
Use it or lose it may become the city of Oconomowoc’s policy when it comes to liquor licenses.
District 3 alderman Matt Rosek, in his role as the chair of the city’s protection and welfare committee, is suggesting that the city give serious consideration to taking back the licenses of businesses not actively using them.
The list includes four licenses held by the delayed Pabst Farms development In all, the city has 37 liquor licenses outstanding.
Rosek has not yet asked his committee to make a recommendation to the full Council and until the committee makes such a recommendation Rosek’s suggestion remains a topic for further consideration.
Plus, there are no provisions for simply revoking a license without first having a public hearing at which the license holder can please the case for retaining the license. Regulations governing the licenses, however, do contain a provision that says that if a license is not being used within 90 days of its issuance, the city may take action to revoke it.
At issue for Rosek is if there are licenses not being used or rarely used and there are others who might use the licenses they are effectively being shut out from applying for them. This, Rosek said, means that potential businesses who would need such a license to come to Oconomowoc or expand service at an existing facility, can’t do so.
In a conversation at the short committee meeting Tuesday night, City Clerk Diane Coenen, whose office issues the licenses after the applicant has been approved by the Common Council, said that her office approached Pabst Farms to inquire as to the status of its plans for the licenses. She said Bill Niemann, who is a vice president at Pabst Farms, said that the development wants to hang onto the licenses even though there are no facilities where they can be used.
Having the licenses serves as an attraction for restaurants or other establishments considering locating within Pabst Farms. Without the availability of the licenses, those businesses may not be interested in Pabst Farms as a future home.
An unusual, but not illegal aspect of the Pabst Farms licenses is they are not tied to an existing facility of business but to parcels of land.
Coenen said she was aware of one license holder within the city who has rarely used the license but wants to hold on to it because the business may be sold in the near future. Having the license makes the property more attractive to prospective buyers, Coenen was told.
The city clerk also said that there are no limits on the city on the number of what are called Class B Fermented Malt Beverage/Intoxicating Liquor licenses it can issue. The annual fee for a license is $600.
In addition to the 37 licenses issued by the city, there are nine reserve licenses, plus two being held in reserve by the city for the former Porticello Restaurant on Valley Road at Silver Lake, and for the now stalled and perhaps dead proposed Fowler Lake Village mixed-use condo project envisioned for behind City Hall.
Reserve licenses are issued to expected users who are not now in operation. The annual fee for a reserve license is $600, plus to reserve one of the licenses, there is an upfront charge of $10,000. The four unused licenses at Pabst Farms are not considered reserve licenses.
Pabst Farms has also benefited from special state legislation that allows them to use up to eight Class B liquor licenses at Pabst Farms. This came after Pabst Farms asked for the special legislation after the city only gave it four licenses. The original plans for Pabst Farms suggested it might have as many as 12 restaurants.
Serving with Rosek on the committee are aldermen Mike Miller (District 3) and James Schmidt (District 1).