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City council approves Taco Bell liquor license, ends year-long legal battle

May 22, 2019

The Madison City Council voted Tuesday to end a yearlong legal battle with Taco Bell and issue the restaurant a liquor license, bringing beer and wine to the Downtown location.

If Taco Bell Cantina, 534 State St., meets the legal conditions set for it, the city must issue the liquor license within 15 days.

“We’ll be issuing the license very shortly,” City Attorney Michael May said.

Under the conditions, the restaurant must stop serving alcohol by 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Taco Bell also needs to meet the city definition of a restaurant and have food available at all times. Staff must also regularly patrol to discourage loitering.

The council also approved a settlement agreement between the city and Bell Great Lakes, the restaurant’s operator. In April 2018, Bell Great Lakes sued the city over a denial of its initial request for a liquor license.

The council had approved the license in December 2017, but former Mayor Paul Soglin vetoed it over concerns that more liquor licenses on State Street would over-tax police in the area and prompt other fast-food restaurants to seek liquor licenses.

The council tried to override the veto twice but failed, and denied the license in January 2018.

Bell Great Lakes sued, alleging the city’s rejection of the license was arbitrary and capricious. In December 2018, a judge ruled in the company’s favor and ordered the city to issue the license.

The city started an appeal in January, but in April, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and two council members introduced the settlement agreement.

New member

The council also approved a contentious appointment to a committee that has been reviewing Madison Police Department procedures for the past three years following the 2015 officer-involved shooting of a black Madison teenager.

On May 14, Rhodes-Conway recommended appointing Gregory Gelembiuk, who has attended every meeting of the Madison Police Department Policy and Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee.

The committee unanimously recommended Gelembiuk be added, even though the committee is almost done with its work.

Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, 1st District, called Gelembiuk “anti-police” at a prior meeting and said she was concerned his addition would put the integrity of the final report at risk.

Ald. Paul Skidmore, 9th District, said Gelembiuk has been disrespectful during meetings he has attended in a way that “disturbs” him.

The council voted 13-6, with one abstention to add Gelembiuk to the committee.

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