KENOSHA – The organizer of a planned Friday protest hopes the music and chants give officials pause in changing Kenosha’s cabaret license requirements.

Friday’s protest, organized by Aimee Crucianelli, will start at 2 p.m. The event will focus on recent changes proposed for the city’s cabaret license.

A live music cutoff in the city at midnight and bar owners submitting security plans are among those changes. 

In an interview Wednesday, Crucianelli said she plans to give a petition to city officials before the Friday event. She had collected more than 1,400 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.

Kenosha aldermen Anthony Kennedy and Rocco LaMacchia have said they plan to send the proposed changes back to the committee. That committee will then adjust the language of the proposed changes with input from the community.

The City Council will next discuss the ordinance changes on Oct. 5.

The protest schedule

A Facebook event describing the protest called for all local entertainers to fight the changes.

“We need to gather and stand against this proposed ordinance,” Crucianelli said. “Bring your signs and bring your acoustic guitars and small drums. Let’s make some noise and show them we won’t stand for this.”

On Wednesday, Crucianelli said that the protest would start at the Kenosha Municipal Building, 625 52nd St., before marching elsewhere.

“On Friday, we plan to walk up and down Seventh Avenue to Ninth Avenue with our signs and songs,” Crucianelli said. “The hope is to have the group sing some songs of unity to show how music can heal us and bring us together, not cause division and violence.”

New cabaret license ‘Purpose’ language

The cabaret license ordinance proposes to “regulate the operation of businesses that provide live entertainment to their patrons and which are licensed to serve alcoholic beverages for consumption so as to minimize the negative secondary effects and to preserve the public safety and health.”

“These establishments,” the proposed language states, “are known to present special problems of noise, boisterous conduct, fighting, or other disorderly conduct, thefts, littering, loitering, public congestion inside the premises, and outside the premises in adjacent parking areas, or other adjacent areas, illegal parking, and related problems arising out of the particular circumstances attendant to public congregations of this type.

“It is not the city’s intent to regulate or restrict the type of content of entertainment provided in those establishments. All licensees will be responsible for controlling patron conduct at their establishment, making adequate provisions for security and crowd control, compliance with state and local laws and minimizing disturbances caused by the operation of the establishment.”

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Many critical of city online

Reactions online on a Facebook post of The Uptown Observer’s story on a tavern league meeting last week proved mixed. 

Many commenters were critical of the city’s decision to change the cabaret license ordinance during a pandemic. 

“They should be upset as already a lot of places will go out of business with covid (sic) restrictions and limiting people to 50% of their avail (sic) seating. This all has to stop.”

Norman J DeLaney III., online commenter

Kenosha resident Jason Hedman also threw his support behind those critical of changes to the license.

“I live above a bar,” Hedman wrote. “Yes, I deal with loud music. Yes, I have people occasionally screaming at each other outside my window at 2am. This is what I accepted when I chose to live here.”

Others critical of bars/tavern league

Still, many others took issue with the Kenosha Tavern League and the reactions of the bar owners themselves.

“I think it’s a good attempt to limit the influence of the Tavern League as well as provides some equity for ALL bar owners.”

Valerie Renee, online commenter

Commenter Thomas Stoddard Jr. particularly agreed with the idea of businesses submitting security plans in the proposed license changes.

“Most definetly (sic) they should submit safety plans!” Stoddard wrote. “Rivals has had their second outbreak of COVID and had to shut down because people are not social s (sic) distancing.”

Security plan language in cabaret license changes

New language states that cabaret license applicants “shall submit a security plan at the time of the application.”

The city will not review applications without a plan.

According to new language proposed for section two of the cabaret license ordinance, an acceptable plan includes:

  • The number of security personnel the applicant will employ and how they will be utilized during an event;
  • How the applicant will resolve issues regarding control and clearance of the parking lot and public right-of-ways near their business during hours of operation and at closing time; unruly patrons; intoxicated patrons; and patrons presenting false IDs;
  • The circumstances under which the police should be called and how physical disturbances, including fights, will be handled;
  • Finally, the plan must identify management staff by name and date of birth.

Similar issue a decade ago

This is not the first time that cabaret license changes have been a heated topic in the city, Crucianelli said Wednesday. 

About 10 years ago, a similar issue came before the City Council, she said. At that time, the community was able to go to the City Council and voice their problems with the changes.

“But now we don’t have that option,” Crucianelli said. “They are not allowing for an open forum for discussions from musicians or venue owners that this directly affects.”

She is clear that she’s not speaking as a community leader or anything of that sort.

“I am simply first a musician and secondly an operator of the venue, as well as a business owner.”

What do you hope for?

When asked what she hopes eventually becomes of the cabaret license issue, Crucianelli said she hopes to see “the City Council do an absolute complete revision of the cabaret license and bring it into terms that relate to modern times.”

She’d also like to see the city not require venues to have parking lots or “prevent patron involvement.”

“I’d like to see the City Council acknowledge how music has helped build the downtown to what it is today,” she said.

“And not stifle our voices.”

Editor’s note: A quote included in this story inaccurately stated that the Rain Bar had been shut down. The Rain Bar was not shut down, but the city denied its request for a cabaret license.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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Daniel Thompson is an independent journalist and the founder of The Uptown Observer based in the Kenosha, Wis., area. He started in journalism at the Western Nebraska Observer in 2012 and, most notably,...