State Street in downtown Madison.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin proposed placing a moratorium on beverage businesses in order to free up space for retail shops in the city’s downtown during a Madison Planning Commission meeting on Monday.
“We’re talking all beverage shops, not just liquor,” said Soglin, emphazing that the temporary freeze would include everything from coffee shops to bars in State Street area.
In 1989, there were more than 90 retail shops in downtown Madison, but there’s now only about 60. In that same time period, the number of restaurants in the area has nearly doubled.
Soglin said the city needs to make an effort to preserve existing businesses.
“As we lose one retailer after another, the consequence will be cascading, and further deterioriation to the point where we’re going to have a street much like Sixth (Street) in Austin, (Texas),” he said.
Jerry O’Brien, the executive director of the Kohl Center For Retailing Excellence, said Soglins plan could help Madison maintain its status as a shopping destination.
“If retail continues to decline on State Street for example, then it will hurt the retailers that stay there. You need enough retailers to make it a shopping destination,” he said.
However, O’Brien said it’s important to keep in mind the population of students that visit the downtown area daily.
“In a market close to a campus like this, where the comfort with shopping online is probably higher than the general market that the specialty stores with really unique niches. Now, students can go online and have it delivered right to their dorm,” he said.
If approved, the moratorium could last until the end of 2018.