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Portage passes fast-tracked carryout liquor ordinance
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Portage passes fast-tracked carryout liquor ordinance

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Within roughly five minutes, members of the Portage Common Council approved an ordinance allowing local businesses to sell liquor to go.

In a teleconference meeting Thursday, council members suspended the rules requiring a second reading of the recently proposed ordinance during a subsequent meeting and instead approved it unanimously for implementation.

City Administrator Shawn Murphy said Friday staff was finalizing the language of the draft and sending it out for publication. Once that occurs, likely at the beginning of next week, owners will be allowed to sell liquor in its original packaging to carryout customers.

Alonso Aranda, co-owner of La Tolteca in Portage, expressed gratitude at the quick steps taken by city officials to pass an ordinance that otherwise would have taken until mid-May to be implemented.

“I really appreciate what the city did to speed things up,” Aranda said Friday. “I’m sure everybody will be happy with it.”

The ordinance didn’t exist slightly more than a week ago. Mayor Rick Dodd said during a council meeting April 21 that he had been contacted by multiple business owners asking for help to allow them to sell distilled and intoxicating liquor as part of their carryout orders. Delivery and takeout meals are the only orders restaurants and taverns that sell food are allowed to fill under mandated closures implemented March 17 by Gov. Tony Evers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because the city did not have a local law allowing “Class B” intoxicating liquor license holders to sell liquor for off-premises consumption, proprietors were only able to sell beer and wine with carryout orders. State law allows for this type of sale, but only if an ordinance is passed by the local government.

Initially, Murphy said with the required steps for passing a new law and the way meetings are scheduled within the city, the ordinance would not be passed by council members until mid-May, roughly two weeks before the Safer at Home order by Gov. Evers is set to expire.

After members of council, including Dennis Nachreiner and Mark Hahn, advocated for fast-tracking the ordinance, Legislative and Regulatory Committee Chairperson Mike Charles agreed to hold a special meeting Monday where the group unanimously recommended the ordinance to council for Thursday’s meeting.

Ordinance 20-06 will remain a permanent law for the city unless council members vote to rescind it in the future. Buyers must physically pay for and pick up the bottles at the business. It cannot be delivered. Business owners will be allowed to sell liquor between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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