Image by Barbara Smith
Madison’s City Council voted a second time last night to deny an alcohol license for a convenience store owned by Kwik Trip in Schenk’s Corners community on Madison’s East Side. The decision comes after community members spoke out against the store, saying that the new owners are not serving the Madison community.
Yesterday’s meeting was just under two hours. In the first half, the council decided a number of other matters, such as a declaring March 1 COVID-19 remembrance and recovery day and authorizing a number of development projects.
But the second hour of the meeting was dominated by a discussion over an item that in normal circumstance is passed under unanimous consent – whether to approve a liquor license.
In this case, the debate concerned a Stop-N-Go on Madison’s East side, located at 2002 Winnebago St. Residents who live near the Stop-N-Go, which was recently acquired by Kwik Trip, have been frustrated for months by the removal of postal services at the convenience store, as well as the removal of laundry services next door.
Because Stop-N-Go was recently acquired by Kwik Trip, and is now under new ownership, it has to apply for a license to sell beer and cider. In December of last year, Madison’s Alcohol License Review Committee (ALRC) voted unanimously to approve the license.
But residents of Madison’s Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara, or SASY, neighborhood asked the ALRC to deny the license, based on the removal of postal services and the laundromat. Neighbors also voiced concerns over the density of establishments selling alcohol in the Schenk’s Corners area.
The council first denied the license at its Jan. 5 meeting of this year. In public comment, Joel Gratz, a community member in the SASY neighborhood, said Kwik Trip doesn’t deserve the alcohol license because it had failed to serve the community.
“I think because of how they’ve gone about taking over this store, they’ve really not demonstrated fully that they are that good community citizen that they claim to be,” he said.
Marsha Rummel is the outgoing alder for the 6th district. Rummel said she hosted a meeting with community members and Kwik Trip, but even after discussion found she had to vote in opposition of the license. At a council meeting last month, she echoed concerns of citizens over the changes Kwik Trip has made and its obligation to provide a positive impact.
“A community benefit like a post office, and eventually the loss of the laundromat, was part of what Stop-N-Go provided to the neighborhood, and it provided a community benefit,” she said.
And Rummel went on to voice concern that Kwik Trip is taking over the convenience stores of Madison, saying the Winnebago location is just one of over a dozen new liquor licenses Kwik Trip has applied for.
“Is it ok with everybody that these places get a monopoly on selling alcohol, as the easiest way for most people access getting beer and hard cider?” she said.
These concerns carried over into last night’s meeting, but with a focus of conversation on density of alcohol establishments. Rummel and other alders like Shiva Bidar said last night’s vote was a chance to start decreasing high density alcohol areas like Schenk’s Corners.
“We have not done a very good job in any opportunities that we’ve had to decreasing density of alcohol in our city, and this is one opportunity to do it, close to one of our high schools,” said Bidar, referring to nearby East High School.
David Ring is a community relations manager for Kwik Trip. At last night’s meeting, he said Kwik trip has provided a valid service to the community in fresh new produce, the addition of a new ATM, and helping law enforcement with the addition of 18 new security cameras. Ring added that the ALRC’s unanimous vote shows Kwik Trip to be a responsible predecessor to the previous owners.
“In short, we are applying for a liquor license to sell the same alcoholic products at the same store location with the same store name that has existed in the SASY neighborhood for over 30 years,” he said.
Ring said Kwik Trip is currently seeking to add a mailbox on site, but it needs to complete approval with the Postal Service
Council president Sheri Carter, who was also on the ALRC, voted to allow Kwik Trip’s license. She said that while citizens brought up a number issues, she still believes Kwik Trip demonstrated the responsibility to hold a liquor license. Carter also added that she hopes there would be a vote to reconsider the application with community input.
The council ended up denying the liquor license, mirroring its January decision in a 12-7 vote.