Capitol Square Pub Asks for Outdoor Cafe

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

The number of outdoor cafes in Madison continues to climb just ahead of the city's smoking ban taking effect at midnight. A city committee revised an ordinance Wednesday night to give some Capitol Square spots the edge they need to set up on the sidewalk.

"People like to eat outside," the owner of a pub on the Capitol Square says.

Brocach Irish Pub has the view but lacks the space to eat on the square. Brocach co-owner Don Gautreau says he sees outdoor cafes at other establishments full, so Gautreau and his business partner asked the city's vending oversight committee to revise its ordinance on outdoor cafes.

"You have to be a certain distance from building sidewalk and only be width of restaurant," committee member Hawk Schenkel says.

Schenkel owns Hawk's on State Street. He has about a dozen tables on the sidewalk.

"Especially in light of what's happening with the smoking ban will be a huge asset 'cause people can sit outside and smoke," he says.

That's also what compelled Brocach's owners to make their request for half that many tables outdoors.

"It's important to have an alternate area for customers who want to smoke to be able to stay on premises and still be able to have a cigarette," Gautreau says.

But Brocach faces a barrier other downtown businesses do not.

"Every circumstance is a little different, our street different from Capitol Square, Capitol Square different from King," Schenkel says.

Granite planters on the sidewalk give Brocach's owners less space for tables and chairs.

"If you change things and still abide by traffic flows and laws, then why not?" Schenkel says.

Downtown Alder Mike Verveer says the revision is similar to what the city allows for businesses on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The move gives Brocach a single row of tables against its building. The pub's owner says it gives smokers an option.

"We want to be business-friendly and that's a concern right now with smoking ban," committee chair Karen Foxgrover says.

The full council needs to pass the measure. Verveer says the council has approved roughly 15 requests for outdoor cafes within the last two months.

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