What ALRC Is Hearing About Canopy Nightclub In Madison

The views from the community regarding Canopy Nightclub have not been coy about where they stand.   Such as this one submitted from a family on Jennifer Street.  The ALRC is holding a meeting tonight to further discuss–and I am most confident–correctly reject the application for this nightclub.

We once again oppose the application by Canopy Nightclub for an alcohol license. Throughout the process, proposed operator Austin Carl, has shown he is woefully unprepared to operate this type of business in this location. The previous business, Plan B, had far better management and they were unable to operate without imposing undue burdens on neighbors and were unresponsive much of the time.

A nightclub at this location is a bad fit for the neighborhood. It is hard to control the noise from patrons on a consistent basis. The previous operators were unwilling to invest the capital required to properly soundproof the building to reasonably reduce the impact of nightclub music on the neighborhood. That impact would be most nights of the week, likely from the hours of 9 – 2 am, year-round. This is when most people in a residential neighborhood sleep.

Austin Carl, through his various presentations to the city and the Marquette neighborhood, seems ill-equipped to address all the concerns that grew out of the previous nightclub operation and it would be likely that these issues would be raised again when his license would be up for renewal. Earlier this week Mr. Carl presented proposed improvements to his operation to the MNA monthly meeting which were not presented at a neighborhood committee meeting he attended only a week or two before. These proposed improvements have not been properly vetted by the neighborhood and we fear are meant to appease without any follow-through.

The neighborhood was exhausted by Plan B and the issues it has caused. The City is now well aware of the problems with this type of business at this location. Please do not authorize these problems to occur again.


Austin Carl’s Canopy Nightclub Still Not Ready For Prime Time

This blog has already weighed in why Austin Carl’s idea for a large dance club in a residential Madison neighborhood was met with much concern.

Seriously, who would make the case for being a business owner in this way?

Carl (age 25) said while he doesn’t have a business background, he had positions in the Army which have prepared him to operate a club. He ran and maintained an arms room in a secure facility, where he said he had to track hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment.

There have been news stories aplenty about Carl’s idea–including one that made for a national late-night comedy show–that underscores why there is no enthusiasm among the locals for his plan.

But like every process in governing, there are avenues where bridges can be attempted and new presentations made to garner support.  That was to have been the case this week for a meeting with the local neighborhood association committee which oversees these issues.   Carl was on the agenda and folks wondered for days what new proposal was about to unfold.

Carl showed up on Tuesday to a meeting of MNA’s Preservation and Development Committee and made one final pitch for public support.

It didn’t work.

Carl did not bring sufficient documentation detailing changes to his business plan to satisfy anyone in attendance and, therefore, he will not have the influential neighborhood association’s support in seeking ALRC approval next week. 

The committee was unable to vote because no one in attendance thought any information Carl presented was any different than what they had seen at previous meetings.

(Alderwoman Marsha)Rummel said Carl appeared to be vastly unprepared for this venture.

Then to make sure the meeting was not a total bust for those attending there was some humor added.  There is no way to make this up–so let us return to the reporter’s account.

In one of the most striking moments of Tuesday’s meeting, a resident detailed the frustrations neighbors experienced during the Plan B/Prism era and asked Carl what his plan was for dealing with neighbors who may be bothered by loud music coming from his business.

“I have two assistant general managers that I have on the security plan, I believe, and they will be open to phone calls,” Carl said. “I put Mrs. Rummel’s phone number on there, Ald. Rummel. I will be posting those phone numbers on the window so people can, if they have any complaints, I found it important that they can contact her.”

Rummel sat flabbergasted as other residents let out audible gasps and chuckles.

Near the end of his presentation, Carl excitedly invited the attendees to check out Canopy at the open house on Sunday. He offered to turn on some music and pour everyone a drink.

“How are you going to pour us a drink, Austin?” one resident exclaimed. “You don’t have a license!”

“I will happily pour you a cup of soda then!” Carl replied cheerfully. 

I wish to reiterate what I wrote weeks ago about Carl.  It still holds true as he seems like a nice guy.  

I like to always support the dreams and aspirations of others.  We all have dreams and need encouragement. But the lack of Carl having any of the needed background and experience to operate a nightclub where alcohol will be sold as fast as drinkers swallow means the needs of the neighborhood must rise above his current wishes.

And so it goes.

Austin Carl’s Dream For Canopy Nightclub Not Ready For Prime Time

This blog has been blunt about the problems that would result, again, if a large nightclub were allowed to operate on Williamson Street in Madison.  The residents of the area have made it known they are not interested in the noise, cars, and drunks that come with such a business.

This week the Wisconsin State Journal reported a story about Austin Carl, the proposed new owner, and operator of Canopy Nightclub.  It was not what anyone with any business sense or PR acumen would have wished to see in print–on the very day that a neighborhood meeting took place to measure the mood of the locals.

Seriously, who would make the case for being a business owner in this way?

Carl (age 25) said while he doesn’t have a business background, he had positions in the Army which have prepared him to operate a club. He ran and maintained an arms room in a secure facility, where he said he had to track hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment.


So, Carl is studying Electrical Engineering online…was out of the country and not able to attend the neighborhood meeting last night…but wants to start a new night club/cafe/whatever and has not mentioned having any experience running a bar or restaurant.  He said he signed a lease for four months and, if all goes well, he’ll sign a longer lease.  

Carl is working to match the club’s aesthetic to its name with a “city meets wildlife and nature” theme. He’s installing a “plant wall” that can be modified to fit the season. Much of it has to be made of plastic so it doesn’t get damaged by club-goers.

“We’re definitely trying to incorporate a healthy dose of nature into everything.”

I like to always support the dreams and aspirations of others.  We all have dreams and need encouragement. But the lack of Carl having any of the needed background and experience to operate a nightclub where alcohol will be sold as fast as drinkers swallow means the needs of the neighborhood must rise above his current wishes.

The newspaper story was a wake-up call for the entire neighborhood.

Canopy Nightclub Adds To Alcohol Overload On Madison’s Williamson Street

There is much concern about the impact the proposed Canopy Nightclub will have on the Williamson Street neighborhood, which consists of homeowners and renters with children and others who are retired.  Placing a nightclub with even a ‘reduced’ capacity of 296 into a residential community is simply audacious.  The owners had threatened to ask for a capacity of 375.  They must know they are not going to be popular with local folks.  Only the owner of the property, Chuck Chvala, the former state senator who was convicted in the State Capitol caucus scandal, comes out with a smile.

One of the members of the Marquette Neighborhood Association took a few hours over the past couple of days and dedicated them to number crunching regarding the alcohol density in this neighborhood.  The results are embarrassing for a place that prides itself on being socially aware and progressive.  What the numbers show is that many who live here might not be any more able to live a sober life than those who make for the great novels of old Russia.

Here then are the findings of this most progressive place in Madison.  As the compilator of the numbers alerted readers on the neighborhood listserv the data is 95% accurate.

Did you know that the Marquette neighborhood had 6,105 residents in 2010 (12.2% of which were age 17 or younger)?  Knocking off the under age 17 group leaves 5,360 residents. 

Did you know that there currently exists 4,431 seats where one can get a drink in the neighborhood (plus event places including Elks, Sylvee, Old Sugar’s event space)?   

Did you know that of those alcohol seats, there are 2,458 where one can be entertained (1,514 of those seats are on E Washington)?  That no Williamson Street entertainment establishment has a capacity greater than 99 (now that Prism is gone)?

4,735 capacity for drinking

2,302 capacity for primarily drinking/entertainment

1,822 capacity for licensed entertainment establishments

Canopy would increase the total number of seats by 17% (not including E Washington establishments).  Increase of 375, currently 2,228.

Canopy would increase the total number of primary drinking seats by 70% (not including E Washington establishments).  Increase of 375, currently 537.

Canopy would increase the total number of entertainment seats by 63% (not including E Washington establishments).  Increase of 375, currently 596.

The highest capacity for a primarily drinking establishment (other than on E Washington) is 99.

The highest capacity for any establishment (other than on E Washington) is Sardine at 218.  Second biggest is I/O Arcade at 155, third is Buraka at 126.  Everything else is 100 or less.

Total MNA 2010 population: 6,105

Total MNA 2010 population over age 17: 5,360

Population increase from 2010-2019?  There were 306 housing units added (projects that required approvals) plus a few others (such as the new house at the Baldwin/Wilson corner).  So even with a population of approximately 6,000 drinking age adults, there is approximately 1 drinking seat for every 3 drinking age adults.

I am never sure what makes people want to waste a life in a bottle or glass.  I feel like I never have a day to waste or a time that I do not want to recall down the road. Good days or bad ones.  Being an adult requires being able to cope with life sober-minded. There are also professionals to talk with at points in life when issues need to be addressed.  When both of my parents died I reached out to talk with someone who allowed me to understand grief and work through it.  I never had a single drink at either of their passings.  In fact, that notion never even crossed my mind.

What I do know is the data shows what impact sitting for hours with a bent elbow does to society.  I wish my college-educated and progressive neighborhood would grasp that fact, too.

And so it goes.

Trump Aiming For Madison’s Willy Street Vote?


Smart politicos know everything they do should always be about addition.  Growing your level of support is the key.  That has hardly been a factor, however, in the Donald Trump White House where hugging the white male base and stroking it continuously, to the exclusion of all else, has been the only consideration.

But might that be changing?  Given recent polling, along with economic woes on the horizon, might Trump’s team now see a need to reach out to voters?  Even ones who live in the very progressive zip codes in Madison?

I had to smirk when it was reported the Trump administration is coming to the defense of Led Zeppelin.  It all comes down to a copyright dispute over the opening passage from one of rock’s best-known anthems, “Stairway to Heaven”.  It is perhaps the best known notes of any song for the past couple generations of Americans.

So now the Justice Department has filed a friend of court brief supporting Led Zeppelin against a claim that it stole the musical passage from an earlier recording, “Taurus” by Spirit.  The lawsuits have been under way for years between the bands, and more legal wrangling is in the works for the courts in September.   Who knows how it all will end?

But Trump is surely hoping to look hip and ‘with it’ when supporting one of the rock worlds best-known songs and bands.  It might even work.  After all, Trump already has the colored hair and skin. Might he show up one night at a rally with a guitar and mock sing? It would surely be more entertaining than listening to his ‘old hits’ about crowd size and emails.

And so it goes.

Willy Street Project Is Why I Owe Madison Mayor Cieslewicz An Apology

Over the past months Madison has been trying to determine the best way to move forward with some big ideas and projects.  For those who have been following the debate compelling arguments have been made from all sides about a host of issues that should concern everyone.  What is good growth?  How does the process of granting projects help or hinder the city?

From how the Overture should come under Madison ownership, what a  new library will mean for downtown, and how to proceed with the Edgewater project have left almost everyone thinking about the opposing sides versus the general overall progress for the city.  There is no end to the debate.

It was not until the last few days, however, that something happened which made me aware while I was looking at the forest I had missed the trees.    While I had become highly interested in following various projects in  the city (and weighing in at times with my opinion) I had missed the complexity that faces those who make the decisions about where we go as a city.

It is for that reason I think I owe Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz an apology.  Let me explain why.

This weekend the head of the Marquette Neighborhood Association sent a message on a list serve that a vote of the MNA Board would take place  concerning pushing the reconstruction of Williamson Street to 2012.  The project was slated to start in April 2011.  Everyone should be mindful that the neighborhood had already delayed the project from going forward last year. 

By Monday the vote was completed.  The MNA board voted unanimously in favor of the resolution to delay construction to 2012.

The purpose of the delay, according to the proposed resolution, is to allow more time for a “Green Streets – Complete Streets” planning process.  The obvious question one has to ask those who feel inclined to slow the project down now is where have they been since the last delay was given?  Or better yet, long before the last delay was given?

That Madison neighborhoods have the right to weigh in on city issues and insure the places we call home run as we want them to is something we can all applaud.  That is a sign that this city understands good citizenship.  But there comes a time when continually stopping projects, or choking off forward movement, becomes a real pain in the keister.  I think the MNA has reached that point regarding this project for Willy Street.

No one wants to see any street near them ripped up for months, and all want to see just the right combination of amenities such as street lights, etc. added that will enhance the finished project.  But I find it ridiculous that the flurry of meetings and head scratching that is taking place now among some in the Willy Street area did not take place well over a year ago.  Or two years ago.  It strikes me that some just love a good meeting, and continuous dialogue.

It comes as no surprise to anyone that this street construction project is sorely needed to spruce and clean up the look of  Willy Street, not to mention the underground utility work that is required.  By now all the back-n-forth from all those who feel they need to have a say should have been resolved.   By now there should have been ample time to debate even the type of grass that might be planted along the street!  Do not snicker…..nothing like having the ‘values committee’ weigh in on an issue.

Look……there comes a time when any project must move forward in one way or another.   Those who are not elected leaders of the city, but think they are, need to be pushed back.  There are times when neighborhood associations need to be reminded the pecking order of local government.  In other words the Williamson Street road construction project should move forward as planned come April 2011.  There has been more than enough time for those who have issues to have had them aired and considered.

In state government on almost every bill one public hearing is held, and at some point an executive session is scheduled to vote the bill up or down.  It seems in Madison neighborhoods, however, there are to be years of endless meetings with nothing to show for it other than a stick in the spokes of the bigger wheel we call a city.

With all that in mind I thought of my sometimes blunt talk towards Mayor Cieslewicz and the big city projects that he works on–some about which I have been at times snarky.  If I am frustrated over obstructionists in my neighborhood, what must it be like for the Mayor to deal with a whole city of them?  YIKES!

It is for that reason I therefore really do apologize to Mayor Cieslewicz.  The job he holds can not be easy.   I hope that I can remain mindful of the lesson learned from these past few days as we move forward on the big issues facing the city.

Pictures: Wacky Wheel On Willy Street Wows Youngsters

First you need one kid.

Then you need a second kid…and even a third.

(If you know these kids let them know they are posted here…I was only able to give my business card to one of them, but I know they all will want to see these photos.)


Bring in the Wacky Wheel.

A Driver……

Some forward motion…..

You can hear the giggles from the kids even in these pictures.

And when all is done three kids are going to have one heck of  a story to tell their buddies tomorrow at school.

Willy Street Parade Is A Real Neighborhood Event

There is no other parade that can compare in simplicity to the Willy Street Parade.  Each year as the warm summer memories fade and the cool breezes start to blow off Lake Monona a random group of local neighbors take to the streets for a parade.  The event celebrates both the diversity of the neighborhood, and also the ever-popular Willy Street Fair.

While many come out to parade in the streets there are still more that follow another ritual each year.  With cups of hot coffee homeowners and friends gather on lawns and front stoops to wave and applaud.   With temperatures especially chilly today many were wearing sweaters and clasping the coffee mug to keep hands warm.

The nice thing about this small parade is that everyone knows everyone.   It is just one big community.  So when Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin walks to cheers and genuine support from friends and neighbors it is not surprising to hear the same greeting for the guy dressed like Elvis.  Or the man who has converted a car into a ‘bubble-mobile.’  If you took the time to get into the parade and march down the streets you were certain to get applause.  Though in a few cases today I think the participants would have settled for a cup of hot coffee instead of a hand-clap.

This neighborhood is the kind where you not only know who your immediate neighbors are, but also know and talk with folks who live two or three blocks down.  As it is a walking neighborhood it is not uncommon any time of the year to start out for an  evening stroll only to find 30 minutes later you only made it to the next block as you ran into someone you know.  In time one gets to know just about everyone in the area.  That is the charm of a real neighborhood.

It is that true sense of community that makes days such as this so pleasurable.    After all a parade is great.  But a parade made up of folks we know and care about is even better.

All parades, as we know, have one thing in common.  That is young boys looking for candy.  I thought these two were the best examples of many that I saw today.

Everyone loves the ‘bubble-mobile’!

In the end the Willy Street Fair and Parade is all about folks coming together. I think the next pictures make that point.