NOTE: This story has been updated as of 12:10 p.m. Tuesday to add in more details about last night’s meeting.
KENOSHA ⏤ On Monday night, the City Council voted to send proposed changes to the city’s cabaret license back to committee.
The motion, which followed more than an hour of discussion, came after council president Dist. 17 Ald. David Bogdala called two public hearings: one at the start and one near the end of discussion on the issue.
No one from the public spoke during the first public comment period. However, comments made during the second public comment portion swayed aldermen to support sending the changes back to committee.
Amendments to the proposed changes presented Monday night included changing the midnight cutoff for live entertainment to 1:30 a.m. The “redline” version given to some aldermen before Monday’s meeting included the cutoff time change.
Only three aldermen voted against the motion. Ald. Curt Wilson, the change’s principal sponsor, was the most vocal in his opposition to sending the changes back to committee.
Wilson introduces amendments
Wilson, who moved to approve the “redline” version ⏤ the version of the proposed changes alderman have marked up, added amendments to ⏤ immediately after the issue was opened for the council.
His motion quickly received a second from Dist. 16 Ald. Dominic Ruffalo.
In discussing the changes, Wilson pointed out two amendments to the language that had been presented to the council.
The first amendment changed the language in the “Purpose” portion of the license in order to include the language “when mismanaged” in the second paragraph.
Wilson’s second, more significant amendment changed the cutoff time for live entertainment in the proposal from midnight to 1:30 a.m. Businesses can enjoy a break from this portion of the policy on New Year’s Eve, he said. Businesses can offer entertainment into the night on New Year’s with an exception that has been added in, according to Wilson.
During the meeting, Wilson, co-sponsors of the ordinance changes and Dist. 10 Ald. Anthony Kennedy said that the public had many misconceptions about the ordinance.
One misconception Wilson addressed was the issue of parking, with many businesses without off-street parking questioning how to fill out that portion.
“In your plan, you can say, ‘My patrons park on the street or available city parking lots,’” Wilson said.
He also addressed the addition of security and operation plans in the ordinance.
“If you’re true to yourself and put down what you’re aware of,” your application will be accepted, Wilson said.
Concerning security and operation plans, businesses may only have to submit them once. The plans would only need to be changed/significantly updated if something changes, he said.
The new 1:30 a.m. cutoff time for entertainment will not go into effect until July 1, 2021. The other new portions of the ordinance would go into effect after they are approved by the council, he said.
Ruffalo believes ordinance will help keep order
Ruffalo, a co-sponsor on the changes, voiced his support for the ordinance. However, he also acknowledged not everyone was “goo goo gaga” over it.
However, he believes this ordinance will help keep Kenosha safe and in order. He hopes it will also keep bars from packing past legal capacity.
“They chase the money, and they overpack the bar,” Ruffalo said.
The issue isn’t just one particular bar, Ruffalo said; issues could come from any bar in the city.
“Once things go bad with a cabaret license, it affects the entire city of Kenosha,” Ruffalo said.
Kennedy moves to send back to committee
After Wilson laid out his amendments and spoke to misconceptions, Kennedy made a move that he had told the local Tavern League he would.
Kennedy, while explaining problematic perceptions from the public, moved to send the issue back to the License and Permits Committee.
He explained he did so to give the public more time to see the “redline” changes.
The “redline” version of the proposed changes was not made available in supporting documents on the city’s website prior to the meeting. Many aldermen also commented that they did not have a version of the “redline” copy either in their packet at Monday’s meeting.
“It did not have the dispersion a normal agenda item has,” Kennedy said.
He asked his colleagues to not play into the narrative that the council was quickly pushing the changes through.
“Let us do our best to not give validity to the lie that we rushed this through,” he said.
Rocky road to deferment
Dist. 3 Ald. Jan Michalski seconded Kennedy’s motion, pointing to a petition of 1,500 signatures given to the council by Kenosha Fusion operator Aimee Crucianelli.
“As Ald. Kennedy points out, perception is reality,” he said. “… On this one, give the people affected a chance to speak.”
Wilson, Ruffalo and co-sponsor Dist. 2 Ald. Bill Siel opposed sending the issue back to community.
Wilson’s opposition sprung out of a lack of public input at the meeting.
“Not one person from the public, not one person from the Tavern League called in,” Wilson said, adding that the same happened at the latest Licenses and Permits Committee meeting about the ordinance changes.
Bogdala opens up second public hearing
Noticing callers on the line, Bogdala called to open the public comments up again on the ordinance. Three business owners spoke during that period.
Crucianelli spoke first, telling the council the proposed ordinance “crushes my life.”
“Anybody who said we had time to evaluate and look this over… we definitely didn’t,” Crucianelli said. “… Is it not reasonable for all of us to have an open meeting where we can sit down and talk about these things that not only affect our life, but our livelihood?”
Art DeBoer, owner of Champions Sports Bar, and Bill Glembocki, who runs the Brat Stop with his wife, both encouraged the council to defer the issue back to committee.
Deferred to Licenses and Permits
After the public comments, Siel and Ruffalo both changed their stances on deferring the issue.
“Ms. Crucianelli is convinced that things are going to be one way,” Siel said, adding his perception was the opposite. “… I, too, am all for clearing things up.”
He added that he will be prepared at the next Licenses and Permits Committee meeting to answer “specific questions” from concerned citizens on the ordinance.
“And (people will) indeed see it will not ruin their livelihoods,” Siel said.
He added that, if no public speaks at the meeting, deferment will have been a waste of time.
Bogdala also offered his thoughts on what he’d like to see the next time it comes before the council, including an example of what a security plan looks like.
Before the final vote, Ruffalo made it clear changes to the proposal in committee may not be simply taking things out.
“Maybe even things would be added,” he said.
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