The McFarland Village Board is considering changes to its outdoor alcohol consumption ordinance, the most restrictive ordinance out of 17 Dane County communities.
Eighteen months ago, McFarland House Café owner Shaun O’Hearn began construction plans for a patio. However, the patio’s size is limited, because the café serves alcohol.
According to the village’s current policy, outdoor areas for alcohol consumption cannot exceed 30 percent of the indoor public use areas in size. This does not include storage, public restrooms, kitchens and food preparation areas.
O’Hearn argues that the ordinance limits are too strict.
“Other licensed establishments have expressed this concern in the past,” Village Administrator Matt Schuenke said. “The village board will be evaluating this provision of the code and look at comparable communities on how they apply these standards before making decisions on what, if any, changes might be considered.”
Original estimates for the outdoor patio were calculated from the first floor of the café and the greenhouse and would allow the patio to measure about 1,100 square feet.
However, O’Hearn is only allowed to use public use space for measurements, which would give him an estimate of 700 square feet. O’Hearn said any steps, doorways and decorations will further limit space and the number of guests he can seat on the patio.
At the Aug. 26 village board meeting, trustees went through the ordinance page by page to discuss the direction of the ordinance they want to change. Discussions included size of the outdoor space, a curfew of 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., prohibiting bars outside and roofs over patios, amplified music and noise levels, and distance from churches and schools.
“When you look around, all the establishments are so different,” Police Chief Craig Sherven said on the Aug. 26 meeting. “It’s hard to apply a one size fits all.”
O’Hearn has been trying to finalize plans and is hoping to begin construction soon. He originally planned to renovate the third floor, but in an effort to not “dig into the bones of the café,” O’Hearn said he and his team decided to move outside with a patio. By not renovating the third floor for public use, his outdoor patio plans became even more restricted.
“I’m just saying you carve it out ... when it makes the outside smaller and you don’t count it if it were to make the outside bigger,” O’Hearn said at the Aug. 12 village board meeting. He noted some of the difficulties with outdoor alcohol consumption for other area businesses. “Maybe I’m acting as the catalyst to get this ordinance better defined because if my design team doesn’t understand how it’s written, I mean how then is anyone else?”
When Angelo’s owner Rick Hubanks put in the outdoor patio four years ago, he obeyed McFarland’s 30 percent space ordinance. He is currently able to seat about 20 customers outside at seven tables.
“I think it should be revisited,” he said.
He believes the ordinance’s restrictions go too far.
Last year, the village board took another look at the ordinance. Hubanks contested issues he had with the ordinance, such as the size restrictions, curfew and prohibited amplified music.
“We’ve never had a police call. We’ve never had a complaint. We’ve never had a problem,” he said.
The restaurant is in the immediate area of Culver’s, Kwik Trip and a car wash. All of these establishments are allowed to play amplified music outside 24 hours a day, but because Angelo’s serves alcohol, the restaurant is prohibited from playing music outside.
If the village approves changes to the ordinance, Hubanks said he would consider making changes to Angelo’s outdoor consumption area, such as increasing the size of the patio. Angelo’s has a space in front of the restaurant that cannot be used for parking and, under the current ordinance, cannot be used as patio space.
“We love being in McFarland and they take care of us,” he said, with faith changes will be coming soon. “Hopefully changes will go forward and make it a better place for outdoor dining.”
The changes to the code discussed at the Aug. 26 meeting will be reviewed by the public safety committee Wednesday, Sept. 11. Any recommendations will be sent to the village board for review and possible approval at the Monday, Sept. 23, village board meeting.
“We can only do this going forward now and maybe fix what has not been applied correctly in the past,” Trustee Mary Pat Lytle said.
She hopes the village can decide on an interpretation of the new rule and apply it going forward.