Madison Mayor Makes Case For Banning New Food And Drink Businesses

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin is arguing that banning new food and beverage businesses near the Capitol would free up space for retail.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin met with local business leaders this week to discuss putting a freeze on new food and beverage businesses near the Capitol.

In the last 25 years, downtown Madison has lost 30 retail stores. In that same time frame, the number of food and drink businesses has nearly doubled. It’s why Soglin proposed the moratorium earlier this month, arguing that it would free up space for retail shops in the city’s downtown area.

“If we lost too many retail establishments, what we found is that the remaining retail suffered, and suffered badly,” Soglin said.

Most of the business leaders attending the meeting disagreed with the moratorium. Susan Schmitz with the business development group Downtown Madison Inc. said that the ban is a bad idea, and that the city needs to embrace change.

“Nothing stays the same. People don’t stay the same. How we live our lives doesn’t stay the same. Things are constantly changing,” Schmitz said.

Many argued that retail businesses have long struggled in downtown Madison, especially with the rise in online shopping. Soglin said the city still needs to do its best to preserve boutiques and keep the number of food and drink establishments in check.

“Some folks are saying that because of the Internet, saving retail is a lost cause. I didn’t buy it then and I’m not buying it now,” he said.

If approved by the Common Council this summer, the moratorium could be in place until the end of 2018.