Mayor's Plans for Halloween Frighten Some Downtown Businesses

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

The mayor's plan for dealing with Halloween has some downtown business owners frightened. Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz wants the city council to declare a state of emergency early on, giving him the power to close State Street bars earlier than normal.

"For me, it's the costumes, creativity that students come up with. That's Halloween, owner State Street Brats Kelly Meuer says.

But others remind business owners of Halloween's darker side.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz spoke of last year, saying, "A fire was started. Our police officers were pelted with objects; police horses were kicked and punched."

Madison's mayor says this year he will put his foot down ahead of time if others do not.

"We will ask council to give me the authority to establish earlier closing times for the bars on State St. for that weekend," the mayor says.

But that's opened up a firestorm of sorts among some downtown hangouts, like State Street Brats.

"Clearly the mayor needs to have emergency powers; this isn't one of them; I don't like this," Meuer says.

Owner Kelly Meuer says his tavern's liquor license renewal already carries a warning about this year's event.

State Street Brats and other businesses could close earlier on Halloween.

"Do things need to be done to make it safer? Absolutely. Do we have to go to draconian measures to shutting down businesses and bars?"

Downtown Alder Mike Verveer says no.

"I do believe many of these businesses provide a stable setting, an outlet, something constructive to do, like eat," Verveer says.

Another option people on both sides of the issue seem willing to explore is restricting State St. access to ticketholders.

"I think ticket sales are a great idea, wristbanding, kids under 12 are free," Meuer says.

The mayor wants what he calls a "phased closing" so people trickle out of businesses instead of crowding the street, making Halloween less of a haunt for the city, more of a treat for revelers.

The mayor says the city needs to free police officers from patrolling State Street to patrol house parties.

He expects a committee on Halloween to come up with a plan by August.

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