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Bar Owners, Musicians, Clash With Kenosha's License & Permit Committee

Oct. 12, 2020 9:30p; Edited 10-13

(WGTD)---Kenosha's performing arts community collided with efforts to head off problems between bars that offer live entertainment and their residential neighbors.

A revision to the city's ordinance on cabaret licenses passed the License and Permit Committee 4-1 Monday night after a three-hour-long public hearing. Musicians, poets and others joined tavern operators in opposing the measure. 

The meeting was accomplished through phone connections because of COVID-19.

The proposal requires venue operators to submit annual security and operational plans, and requires new applicants to meet with the alder who represents the district in which they'd like to locate. One particularly controversial provision would require venue operators to pull the plug on the entertainment a full hour before the standard 2:30 a.m. closing time.

An attorney who was recently hired by the Kenosha Tavern League said the ordinance lacks standards and that its provisions are subjective. Other speakers--like former Kenosha Poet Laureate Carly Anne Ravnikar--said the city's one-size-fits-all approach fails to take into account that some venues compete for business with locations outside of Kenosha. An attorney for Club Icon--the city's only LGBT nightclub with a large dance floor--said losing an hour of entertainment is a big deal for the bar which he said might jeopardize its future. 

In supporting the ordinance, committee member Anthony Kennedy said bar operators have a responsibility to the city. "And that responsibility is you do not affect the quality of life for the people surrounding those establishments," he said. "That's why I buy into what we're trying to do here."

There's a racial element to the issue. The two bars that most recently lost their cabaret licenses catered to minority crowds. Kennedy said he wants to keep that from happening to future operators who might come into the city less than fully prepared to navigate the ins and outs of running a tavern. 

The full city council will consider the measure and its next meeting.