Come this summer, it looks like late-night downtown pub-crawlers might get to linger a little longer at their favorite outdoor cafe.
A proposal extending alcohol service hours at sidewalk cafes -- and making the hours consistent citywide -- received unanimous approval Wednesday night from Madison's Vending Oversight Committee.
The proposal allows servers to cafes to serve alcohol until 1 a.m. and for customers to imbibe outside until then. It also allows sidewalk cafes to remain open until the establishment's closing time and for workers to remove furniture 30 minutes after closing time.
Currently, sidewalk cafes along State Street and other nearby streets must stop serving alcohol at 11:30 p.m. and customers cannot consume these drinks outside past midnight. Outdoor seating areas must also close by 1:00 a.m.
Elsewhere in the city, outdoor cafes have until 1 a.m. to clear alcohol off the table.
Downtown Ald. Mike Verveer, a member of the vending oversight committee, says the ordinance would also allow the Common Council and the Alcohol License Review Committee to place stricter hours on particular sidewalk cafes. This could happen if noise, for example, became an issue for neighbors.
"I'm not surprised nobody has any questions because we've really beaten this one to death," Sara Richards, chair of the committee, said Wednesday night. "My sense in the past is that we are all pretty much in favor of this."
Verveer, who co-sponsored the proposal with Ald. Scott Resnick, says the ordinance is scheduled to go before the Alcohol License Review Committee on May 22 and the Common Council on June 4. He said he expects it to pass both bodies and go into effect citywide by mid-June.
Resnick said after the meeting the proposal has received "tremendous" support from restaurant owners and police officers who have wanted the changes "for years."
"It creates a single ordinance for the entire city," Resnick says. "It makes it easier for law enforcement as well. Everyone's on the same page."