When a business like Canopy seeks an alcohol license in the Marquette Neighborhood, the owners usually meet with the Marquette Neighborhood Association’s Preservation and Development Committee first.
The matter then goes to the full MNA board before the ALRC makes its final decision.
Yesterday, the Board voted to send a letter to the ALRC asking them to follow this procedure instead of granting Canopy an alcohol license.
Jack Kear is the Chair of the MNA’s Preservation and Development Committee. He says that the full board was surprised by how quickly the application has moved.
“The very first time that it came before the neighborhood association affiliation officially was last night,” Kear says. “So, the proposal to open the bar this Saturday, will make it the first alcohol establishment in our district to open before the neighborhood association has even had a chance to hear about it.”
Kear also says that, given community concerns, the Preservation and Development committee voted to recommend the ALRC deny Canopy an alcohol license.
Steve Ohlson lives about 300 feet from 924 Williamson, the former site of Plan B and Prism, dance clubs that ostensibly catered to the LGBTQ+ community before closing.
Ohlson says he’s open to Canopy opening as a nightclub in the Marquette Neighborhood…just not at the Willy Street location.
“For me and my wife, the thing we experienced most noticeably was that every night at bar time, there was a crowd of screaming, laughing people that poured down the street and woke us up in the middle of the night,” Ohlson says. “I don’t have any objection to a music club. That’s a great idea, but it has to be in a location that’s appropriate.
Austin Carl is Canopy’s owner. He says even though the website’s URL uses the term “nightclub,” he thinks the venue will aim to be something more.
“It’s very frustrating for me when people keep saying ‘nightclub, nightclub, nightclub’ because I don’t see [a] nightclub,” Carl says. “We will have music, yes. That is to help bolster profits, but I don’t see my establishment being run with that in its f. I want to be somewhere where people can come and sit and relax.”
If Canopy does incorporate music, its lease prohibits it from having special “hip hop and urban music” events.
“The landlord was worried that we would have some instances that would scare away some of the community members. Not [so much as] scare away, necessarily, as make the community uncomfortable,” Carl says.
Beyond concerns of noise, certain members of the LGBTQ+ community have been outspoken about Carl’s claim in The Cap Times that Canopy will be “demographicless.”
nibiiwakamigkwe is a two-spirit individual who attended 18 and up events at Plan B as an undergraduate student at UW-Madison. They say they’d like to see Canopy have gender neutral bathrooms to better support the LGBTQ+ community.
“But I don’t see how that could happen in a club without queer intententions because, for me, I still struggle to find a bathroom out in a ‘demographicless’ society, to use his phrase again,” nibiiwakamigkwe says.
During last night’s meeting, the Alcohol License Review Committee referred their decision to next month’s meeting, allowing the full Marquette Neighborhood Board to meet about Canopy this Monday.
Canopy is still set to open this Saturday, January 18th, but only as a café.