Lake Geneva businesses seeking a liquor license might soon be judged based on how many customers they can accommodate and where they get their products.
Mayor Tom Hartz has proposed a new system of evaluating liquor license applicants using a point system.
The point system would apply to businesses seeking a Class B liquor license, which is issued to taverns or restaurants to serve beer, wine or liquor for consumption on the premises.
The city currently has 15 businesses with such licenses, with one license currently available. State law limits a city’s Class B liquor licenses to one for every 500 people living there.
Hartz said his point system idea might be a fairer method for granting a liquor license, rather than a current system that he described as first come-first serve.
“I thought we should put some shape to it,” he said.
Under the proposal, an applicant would have to obtain at least 30 points to qualify for a liquor license, based on: whether the business owner lives in Lake Geneva; if the business purchases products from farmers or growers within 100 miles of Lake Geneva; if the applicant plans to purchase craft products from breweries, wineries or distilleries within 100 miles of Lake Geneva; if the applicant plans to make any improvements to their building; and if the establishment is a new or an existing business.
Other criteria would be based on number of employees, seating capacity and parking availability — giving more points for smaller establishments.
If more than one applicant is seeking a Class B license at a time, then the license would go to the business that earns the most points.
The city council would still have the authority to approve licenses.
City officials stressed that the point system would apply only to new applicants, and would not be used to revoke any existing licenses.
The city council was scheduled to vote on the mayor’s proposal Aug. 11, but aldermen voted to send the matter back for more consideration by the finance, licensing and regulation committee.
Some aldermen voiced support for the point system.
“If two people are going for one license, it’s nice to have something to base it on,” Alderman Ken Howell said.
Alderman Doug Skates said he was in favor of implementing the point system.
“This is unique,” Skates said. “I like where this is headed.”
Alderman Richard Hedlund questioned why the city would award higher points to a business with a smaller seating capacity rather than a larger seating capacity.
Hedlund said businesses that seat more people usually employ more workers.
“Doesn’t that seem backwards?,” he said.
Alderwoman Selena Proksa said establishments that seat fewer people do more to promote Lake Geneva’s small-town charm.
“Personally, I like the backwards cattywampusness,” Proksa said.
Alderwoman Cindy Flower said businesses should be rated more on their uniqueness than their seating capacity.
“I think we can get uniqueness without necessarily being small, though,” Flower said. “I don’t know if small is always better.”
Flower made a motion to send the issue back to committee for further review. The motion was approved by a unanimous vote.
During an Aug. 6 finance committee meeting, committee members voted to forward the liquor license point system to the full city council without a recommendation.