Outside alcohol permit approved for The Office

THE PROPRIETORS of The Office Bar & Grill in downtown Madison have proposed setting up five outdoor tables on the north side of the building (above) along S. 1st St. Madison's commissioners approved the business' outside alcohol sales permit on Monday. The bar and grill's staff are expected to maintain 6 feet of sidewalk for pedestrians.

Madison's commissioners approved on Monday having the city issue an outside alcohol sales permit for The Office Bar & Grill so the bar and eating establishment can serve alcoholic drinks to customers seated at outdoor tables.

Carson Stemper, bar and grill proprietor, presented Madison officials with a plan to set up five tables, each having seating for four persons, on the sidewalk on the north side of the restaurant.

According to Chief Justin Meyer of the Madison Police Department, Stemper understood that his tables and seating would need to allow for 6 feet of sidewalk clearance for pedestrians. In addition, Meyer said the bar and grill's staff would need to limit outside patrons to 10 persons until social-distancing guidelines were relaxed in Madison.

"I have no issue with this," Meyer said about the outside seating plan.

The proprietors of The Office Bar & Grill agreed to several rules related to operating with an outside alcohol sales permit, including:

-- Not serving alcohol after 9 p.m.

-- Only serving alcohol to patrons seated at tables.

-- Providing at least 6 feet of open and unobstructed sidewalk for pedestrian traffic.

A holder of an outside alcohol sales permit must also earn more than 50% of the business' gross receipts from the sale of food prepared on the premises.

During the commissioners' meeting, some of the city officials participated via distance phone and computer connections. At the start of the meeting, Commissioner Kelly Johnson only had an audio connection and could not speak to other meeting participants or have his votes recorded. Johnson's connection was fully established later in the meeting.

At the start of the consideration of Stemper's alcohol permit, Commissioner Mike Waldner told city officials that he would abstain from voting on the application due to a potential conflict of interest.

Commissioners Jeremiah Corbin and Bob Thill and Mayor Marshall Dennert voted to approve the alcohol permit, and Waldner abstained. Johnson's vote was not heard.

Patron limits extended

The city commissioners also approved an amended resolution that extended a 10-person limit on patrons inside and immediately outside of certain businesses in the city as a social-distancing effort to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The commissioners had already passed an almost identical ordinance on April 9 that limited the number of patrons allowed to gather in a casino, bar or restaurant to no more than 10 persons either inside or outside such a business. The initial ordinance went into effect from the day of its passage until May 4. Monday's action extended the limitation deadline to May 22.

The penalty for violating the ordinance amounts to a fine of $200 per violation or "...such amount levied by a court of competent jurisdiction." During their discussion about the ordinance in early April, city officials said they could consider compliance with patron limits when reviewing business license renewals.

When the ordinance was approved in early April, city commissioners and municipal officials discussed revisiting the patron-limit ordinance at later dates to keep its enactment and deadline current with the latest coronavirus pandemic conditions.

Madison's limits on patrons do not include the business' employees and will allow for patrons arriving to pick up take-out food or off-sale alcohol purchases, if those businesses possess the appropriate licenses. The resolution is also open for future re-evaluation.