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The Madison City Council approved Tuesday a license for a Taco Bell off State Street to sell beer and wine, and confirmed Kwasi Obeng to fill the new council chief of staff position.


State Street eaters looking to sip on a beer with their Crunchwrap Supreme are in luck after the Madison City Council approved a liquor license Tuesday for Taco Bell.

Council members voted to allow a Taco Bell Cantina, which is expected to open this month, to sell wine and beer at 534 State St. But the approval did not come without concerns being raised about the quantity of liquor licenses in the Downtown and the problems it creates.

“I have no issue with this application or this applicant,” said Ald. Paul Skidmore, 9th District. “It’s the location and the situation surrounding it, the alcohol-fueled problems.”

While the Taco Bell Cantina — which has a different decor than regular Taco Bells, is located in urban business districts and serves alcohol — will cook up burritos and tacos into the early morning hours, beer and wine sales will stop at 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Pat Eulberg, a Taco Bell representative, said he believes the company has done enough to address safety concerns by installing 17 security cameras and scanners for identification cards, as well as training employees.

Eulberg said the State Street location will become the ninth Taco Bell Cantina in the United States.

Mayor Paul Soglin, a staunch opponent to more establishments selling alcohol on State Street, was out of town for the meeting. But he expressed his concerns to the City Council in a memo.

“We have more than enough liquor outlets in our city,” Soglin wrote. “If we are concerned about public safety, if we are concerned about mounting law enforcement costs, issuing a license that brings no public value, but great public liability does not make sense.”

Some members said they want the broader policy conversation about alcohol Downtown, but saw no issues with Taco Bell’s application.

Also on Tuesday, the council confirmed Kwasi Obeng, who works for Chicago’s Office of Inspector General, to fill the new City Council chief of staff position with a five-year contract.

Obeng will assist the 20 council members in program development and policy responsibilities and oversee the council’s three current staff members. Even before his Jan. 8 start date, Obeng had his salary bumped up by $2,000 to $107,000 after receiving a counter offer from his current employer, according to a memo from council President Marsha Rummel.

  • In other action, the City Council approved $1.4 million for youth and adult employment programs next year, despite concerns from some nonprofit leaders over how the money is distributed.
  • Also, Veridian Homes will be refunded about $262,000 after the city overcharged the developer in park impact fees on its Grandview Commons project.
  • The City Council also approved $322,000 in tax incremental financing (TIF) for Stone House Development’s affordable housing project at 134 S. Fair Oaks Ave., which has drawn concern about its proximity to the Madison-Kipp Corp. facility across the street.

Logan Wroge has been a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal since 2015.

Dean Mosiman covers Madison city government for the Wisconsin State Journal.