West Allis officials denied liquor license to downtown business

July 8, 2014

More than a month ago, West Allis officials adopted an ordinance that established a prohibition against new liquor stores from opening in the city's downtown shopping district.

The West Allis Common Council has put its newly adopted legal document into motion when it denied an applicant's request to sell liquor out of a vacant space.

Omer J. Audi, who operates the Super Bottle Depot at 1357 S. 76th St., applied to transfer his operator's license to a store space he purchased at 7546 W. Greenfield Ave.

But the former Old Owl Imports building Audi purchased is in the heart of the city's downtown commercial district, which spans South 70th to 76th streets.

Despite the ordinance, Audi had asked city officials to consider his request since he purchased the building for the sole purpose of relocating Super Bottle Depot to the more visible downtown shopping space. There was little support for honoring Audi's request when the council first discussed the matter May 20.

In an expected move last week, the council's License and Health Committee recommended denying Audi's application. The full council followed suit, voting 8-1 in favor of the committee recommendation.

Neither the committee nor the council had much to say about the denial when a vote was taken at both meetings this week.

Early in deliberations, the council was mixed on the prohibition of new liquor stores downtown. Proponents of the ordinance said it would help spruce up the district's image, but there were some reservations by members of the council since it could be interpreted as anti-business.

Alderman Michael May said he believed the ordinance needed to be across the board, and individual considerations should not enter the equation.

"We need to make sure it's good policy without prejudice," he said.

The ordinance was, in part, enacted because of what had been deemed a prevalence of people – particularly those who are homeless – purchasing liquor, consuming it in public and leaving bottles and other liquor in public areas.

The city's action applies only to establishments with class A licenses, a designation that applies to the retail sale of alcohol by can or bottle. Restaurants and bars are permitted to sell alcohol on premises under class B and C licenses.

Audi, who was not present at the meetings, has told the Greenfield-West Allis NOW that he intended to sell the downtown building if his application was denied.

"It could sit vacant for a long time," Audi said.

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