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Wednesday, April 16, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 43.0° F  Mostly Cloudy and Breezy
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Sellers offer alternatives to expanded Madison booze ban

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When the Madison Common Council proposed expanding its ban on the sale of small containers of alcohol, liquor industry representatives raised holy hell.

Currently, the city does not allow the sale of fortified wine, beer in quantities of less than a six-pack or liquor in amounts of 200 milliliters or less in the downtown area. Ald. Michael Schumacher proposed making it citywide, to curtail problem drinkers who panhandle and cause trouble.

Industry lawyers, distributors and retailers complained at the council's May 5 meeting that the proposal punished everyone because of the sins of a few. Schumacher agreed to table the proposal for more discussion, but warned industry reps he had the votes to pass it, so they'd better work cooperatively.

It worked. Schumacher is thrilled with proposals that have come from meetings with industry reps. This week, he tabled the proposal for another six months. "The most critical piece is that the industry has made a commitment," he says.

Most significantly, the industry supports - and has agreed to fund - an educational officer to consult with and train retailers about problem drinkers. Schumacher sees the person training employees at stores and helping develop a list of repeat offenders. They could potentially work with the drinkers themselves, referring them to services.

Bill White, a lobbyist with the Wisconsin Grocers Association, pledges industry support: "I'm pretty confident we'll have a solution that is targeted to meet the problem."

Ald. Mike Verveer, who represents an area where the sales bans are already in place, would consider looser rules in his district if the industry proposals work. "I'm not hugely optimistic that the industry ideas will make the problem go away," he says, "but if that's the case, it'd be fantastic."

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