Taco Bell restaurant group files lawsuit against Madison for denying liquor license

MADISON, Wis. (WISC) -- The restaurant group that owns and operates State Street’s Taco Bell Cantina is suing the city of Madison for arbitrarily denying the restaurant a liquor license.

Flynn Restaurant Group, which owns Applebee’s, Panera and Taco Bell restaurants, filed the lawsuit Friday, saying that Mayor Paul Soglin’s opposition to the license contradicts his actions.

Greg Flynn, chairman and CEO of Flynn Restaurant Group, said Mayor Soglin’s concerns about late-night, alcohol-related violence in the State Street area do not stand when an identical liquor license was approved for a restaurant across the street from Taco Bell three weeks after Flynn’s request was denied.

“Mayor Soglin’s feedback completely contradicts his actions,” Flynn said in a statement.

The Madison Alcohol License Review Committee approved a license for the restaurant in November, and the Madison Common Council also approved the license in December.

However, Mayor Soglin opposed issuing the liquor license and vetoed the vote several days later, citing public health and safety concerns as his reason.

"I see little public value in issuing a liquor license to Taco Bell and enormous costs to the residents of Madison and in our city government," Soglin said in a statement.

He also said he was against issuing a liquor license to any new establishment in the State Street area.

The Common Council met in January and voted to uphold the mayor’s veto.

Flynn said that in the request, the group offered to comply with restrictions and standards imposed on other applicants, including restrictions on when alcohol is sold and limiting alcohol sales to solely beer and wine.

The request stated that the Taco Bell restaurant would take measures to ensure safety, including video cameras, increasing lighting on State Street outside the restaurant, using ID scanners, training employees and increasing visibility at the front of the restaurant.

According to Flynn, the Alcohol License Review Committee and Madison police acknowledged the group’s track record of operating restaurants across the country with liquor licenses and commended them for their level of due diligence and planning.

“Flynn Restaurant Group has an outstanding reputation of owning and operating safe, orderly and compliant concepts nationwide and we always keep the safety and wellbeing of our guests at the forefront of our business,” Flynn said.

Flynn said he believes the denial of the liquor license is a result of Soglin's bias against the restaurant group.

Taco Bell Cantina opened on State Street in December, taking the place of what was formerly Wendy's.

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