"They're Being Held:" Oconomowoc Running Dry on Liquor Licenses

If you're looking to grab a drink at Mr. Slow's Bar in Oconomowoc, you might want to think again.

The bar has been torn down, and the property is completely empty. So why is there still a valid liquor license registered to the property?

     "Right now we've got 7 licenses that are being held that were issued, that aren't being used," says Alderman Matt Rosek.

Those 7 make up nearly 20% of the available liquor licenses the city can offer. The state uses population to decide how many liquor licenses a given municipality can have, in the case of Oconomowoc, it's only 33. 

     "By holding so many out for folks that aren't using them, we've created a scarcity of the licenses, where people that want or apply for them, just can't get them.". 

City Clerk Diane Coenen says 8 businesses inquired about getting a liquor license last year. All but one were turned away, because the city had just one available. 

That license was issued to Hops and Leisure, which tried for a year and a half before finally receiving a license. 

     "He [the owner] waited over a year to get a license for an operating bar, while some of these folks are holding them have been sitting on them for up to a decade," says Rosek. 

That includes Pabst Farms, where records show developers were issued four liquor licenses back in 2005, with plans to use those for future developments. 12 years later, not one single license has been used. 

The common council can legally revoke licenses that haven't been used for 90 days. The licenses at Pabst Farms have been sitting unused for more than 4,000 days. So what gives? 

     "I truly believe there's a lack of political will to pull some of the licenses from folks that aren't using them."

Rosek says he's been working to try and convince fellow council members to revoke some of the licenses, but the council voted 4-3 against doing so last year. Calls to alderman who voted against the revocation were not returned Friday. 

Rosek says potential bars and restaurants are already starting to look elsewhere, knowing they won't be able to serve anything beyond beer and wine in Oconomowoc. 

     "Folks that want to come in and build a new bar, they simply can't do it without those liquor licenses," he says. "It's something I'm going to push for, to try and revoke these licenses sooner than later." 

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