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Milton OKs liquor license

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
December 22, 2010
— A Milton couple struggling to keep their bar business afloat got an early Christmas surprise Tuesday.

It was a one-word gift from Milton Mayor Tom Chesmore: Aye.


The mayor broke a 3-3 tie between the city council over whether to grant Dan and Tina Thompson the city's only remaining reserve Class B liquor license.


The Thompsons run the Caddy Shack, a renovated bar and grill next to a pro shop and driving range at 233 N. Janesville St. on Milton's north side. The couple has owned the business since 2009.


The city earlier had approved licenses for the Caddy Shack to sell beer and wine, but the Thompsons repeatedly have asked the city council to grant a reserve license that will allow them to serve hard liquor at their bar.


The couple says the bar has struggled since the adjacent driving range closed for winter. They say the lack of a hard liquor license had deterred winter customers who come in for a meal and a leisurely drink, only to leave when they learn the bar had no license for hard liquor.


"We've tried selling just beer and wine, but business has not been what we hoped," said Tina Thompson. "Yesterday we made twelve dollars."


Since July 2009, the council twice denied the Thompsons for a Class B hard liquor license, most recently in October, when the council voted 4-2 against the license.


Alderman Dave Adams, along with alderpersons Maxine Striegl and Dave Schumacher voted against granting the Caddy Shack the city's reserve liquor license on Tuesday and in October.


Adams said he and others wanted to hold onto the license in case a chain restaurant became interested in building in Milton along Highway 59 or the future Highway 26 bypass.


"We've wanted to keep our options open and not close a huge window of opportunity," Adams told the Gazette on Monday.


Class B hard liquor licenses are restricted by state statute, with a quota based on a municipality's population. According to city figures, Milton would need a population boost of 300 to become eligible for another license.


Tuesday, some of the 40 friends and family who came to the meeting urged the council to give the Thompsons the city's lone reserve Class B liquor license.


Doug Krause, who owned the Caddy Shack for more than 25 years, told the council he was thrilled when the Thompsons pumped $150,000 into renovating the clubhouse and adding a bar. Eleven part-time employees now work at the Caddy Shack.


"They're willing to make the effort to employ people and keep things going in the right direction," Krause told the council.


Alderperson Nancy Lader, who in October voted to deny the license, voted Tuesday to approve it along with aldermen Brett Frazier and Robert McLinn, who had supported earlier requests by the Caddy Shack for the license.


Lader said she wanted to give the bar a chance to turn itself around.


Dan Thompson had tears of joy in his eyes after the council's vote.


"Give me a minute, give me a minute," he told the Gazette.


Lader's change of heart swung the vote to a tie, forcing Chesmore to break the deadlock. Chesmore said he hopes the council's decision doesn't backfire.


"I expect you guys to make this work," he told the Thompsons. "I hope that tomorrow we don't have somebody else knocking on our door that wants this (license)."


Frazier told the Gazette he was willing to risk parsing out the city's lone reserve liquor license if it meant giving a business that's invested in Milton a chance to survive.


He said with the sluggish economy, he doubts a major restaurant will be chomping to locate in Milton soon.


"If it happens, come to me. I'll eat my hat," Frazier said.



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