KENOSHA ⏤ The Kenosha Tavern League opposes the changes proposed to the city’s cabaret license requirements.

They made that opposition very clear at their meeting Tuesday at Coins Sports Bar, 1714 52nd St.

The league especially opposes new measures that place an extra burden on business owners already dealing with a pandemic.

Sponsored by Ald. Curt Wilson, the proposed changes to the cabaret license affect the overall language of the purpose of the license and add in sections to list security and control plans, among others.

Read the proposal.

New ‘Purpose’ language

The new language proposed for the purpose of the cabaret license ordinance is 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.”

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Security plan language in proposed changes

Concerning security plans, the amended language states that cabaret license applicants “shall submit a security plan at the time of the application. An application will not be accepted for review and consideration without a plan.”

According to the 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; patrons who are intoxicated; and patrons presenting false IDs;
  • The circumstances under which the police should be called and how physical disturbances, including fights, will be handled;
  • And the plan must identify by name and date of birth, individuals employed by the establishment in a management capacity.

Kenosha Tavern League president sets tone of meeting

The local tavern league’s opinion of the proposed ordinance was clear from the start of the meeting. 

President Shirley Willie, the owner of Clay’s Tap on Roosevelt Road in Kenosha, put forth three options before the league: do nothing, voice opposition to certain parts, or “fight it all the way.”

“We have been through a lot this year,” Willie said. “First, COVID. We were shut down for two months. Then, the rioting. Then we were on a curfew. We had to shut down again. And then some of us have had our businesses either destroyed or damaged. I think we’ve been through enough.

“And now this?”

Fusion speaks out against proposed changes

Aimee Crucianelli, who recently took over running Fusion, 5014 Seventh Ave., voices her concerns over the off-street parking portion and the midnight cutoff for entertainment in the new proposed language of the cabaret license ordinance. Photo by Daniel Thompson/The Uptown Observer.

Aimee Crucianelli, who recently took over running Fusion, 5014 Seventh Ave., took issue with the proposed off-street parking requirements and the requirement that live entertainment conclude by midnight.

“The parking issue that it also brings up is a major concern for me because Fusion doesn’t have off-street parking,” Crucianelli said. “So that, alone, puts us as closed.

“The midnight requirement is silly, obviously.”

Crucianelli and other owners present for the meeting compared the new proposed language to the kind used to limit public dancing in the Kevin Bacon movie “Footloose.”

“That’s kind of what this ordinance reminds me of,” she said. “They’re just trying to take away our ability to get out and have a little bit of fun.”

Critical of ‘boilerplate’ comments

People have also been telling her that the ordinance in its current form is simply a beginning or “boilerplate language.”

“My response to that is, as it currently reads, that’s how I’m defining it. Because I don’t have future tense to understand what it’s going to relate to or who it’s going to affect directly. So I think the wording in some of that definitely needs to change. So compromise, there can be some compromise. 

“But as it stands, this is just complete bullsh*t.”

She also encouraged those present to sign a petition she had been circulating and intends to present to the council. Her online petition had more than 1,250 signatures as of Thursday morning. She has a goal of 1,500 signatures. 

Alderman promises amendments to new language

Kenosha 5th District Ald. Rocco LaMacchia Sr. assured owners that the proposed language will be amended before it comes back to the council for final approval.

“I’ll tell you, coming up on the next council meeting, there’s going to be changes,” LaMacchia said.

The Common Council passed the first reading of the new ordinance language at its meeting Monday without comment. However, LaMacchia said it will be discussed properly at the council’s next meeting.

“I have your back on everything that I think is BS. And this is BS,” he said. “I talked to Curt Wilson on Sunday. He wouldn’t tell me what they’re changing, but there’s change coming up to help the good people. 

“That’s what I said, we already have mechanisms in place to punish people who don’t follow the rules. We’ve already taken away three cabaret licenses for that reason.”

Kenosha Police Chief Dan Miskinis, too, can revoke cabaret licenses, if immediate action is necessary.

“Again, there’s changes coming up, and if you trust me,” he said. “it’s going to help you guys, it’s not going to hurt you.

A ‘scare tactic’

LaMacchia stated that Wilson, in an exchange prior to the Tuesday meeting, had called the new measures a “scare tactic.”

“From what (Wilson) told me, this is a scare tactic to show you that we have the authority to take your cabaret license away. But I told him, ‘Why are you punishing the good people? If nobody did anything wrong, let’s not punish the people who have no demerits.’

“… Cause a lot of these guys are, I will tell you, closet drinkers who don’t go to bars and they’re trying to punish you guys.”

Kennedy explains reasoning of changes

District 10 Ald. Anthony Kennedy voices his support for the proposed changes and responds to citizen questions at Tuesday’s Tavern League meeting. Photo by Daniel Thompson/The Uptown Observer.

District 10 Ald. Anthony Kennedy gave his lone support to the proposed changes Tuesday among a crowd of opposition.

Kennedy’s experience serving on the license and permits committee for a decade is what has triggered his support, he said.

“I am tired of taking people’s cabaret license from them,” Kennedy said. “I’m tired of taking their bars from them. I’m tired of doing that.”

Kennedy explained that, as the current process sits, bar owners come to the committee with their proposals. However, as he describes it, their proposals can lack the structure that the city would prefer. 

Owners have more difficulty fixing mistakes if proposals are submitted in that form, he said.

“I have used my discretion to be able to give you some guidance. Say, ‘You still have a cabaret license, but it’s in trouble. Maybe you should do this, this and this,'” Kennedy said. “That’s not codified, that’s not part of the rules. That’s us using our discretion.”

“This, what you see here (the new language), is us putting the rules in place for our discretion,” Kennedy continued. “I understand, trust me, I understand the 2 o’clock to 12 o’clock thing. … I understand that. I’ve heard that. We’re willing to talk about that. But there’s other things in here that we really need to talk about.”

Ald. Anthony Kennedy

Coins owner, league take issue with lack of transparency

Coins owner Jerry Cousin told Kennedy expressed that the city showed a lack of transparency in rolling out the proposed changes.

“Why wasn’t the Tavern League involved from the beginning?” Cousin asked. “As the bar owners and people affected the most, why weren’t they invited to help craft a law that would make sense, help serve the public and serve what the concerns are as opposed to us having to discover it after the fact”

“No one from the Tavern League on our board in the city was even notified that this was a potential change that was going to occur. It was literally me having to go look for something else and running across it by accident and notifying everybody that we have a fire that we need to address.”

Jerry Cousin, owner of Coins Sports Bar

To Cousin, the city approached even making changes in the wrong way.

“And to me, that’s not a spirit of cooperation,” he said. “It feels like we’re trying to get duped. 

“We’re not trying to get dogged into a situation because it wasn’t handled the right way.”

With feedback certain from the public, the issue will next head before the Common Council on Oct. 5. Kennedy intends to try to move the ordinance back to committee at that meeting. The committee would work on the language further before it came back to the full council.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Love what we do?

In addition to our education features, we’ll be kicking off a series of stories highlighting how parents, students, and educators are adapting to the impact of COVID-19 on education. If this is important to you, please consider donating to our education reporting fund. https://business.facebook.com/donate/1846323118855149/3262802717172659/

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,...