ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Madison law would target house parties with kegs

Mayor Paul Soglin and other Madison officials want to give police authority to quickly shut down dangerous or rowdy house parties, fine hosts and attendees, and hold landlords accountable for future problems.

Mayor Paul Soglin and other Madison officials want to give police authority to quickly shut down dangerous or rowdy house parties, fine hosts and attendees, and hold landlords accountable for future problems.

But some say the proposed law is too tough.

Under the proposal, police could declare a party a nuisance if attendees are violating one of 17 existing laws, including providing liquor without a license, providing alcohol to underage or intoxicated people, obstructing entrances or stairways to buildings, disturbing the peace and overcrowding.

The proposal puts a spotlight on kegs, letting police deem a gathering a nuisance if an open keg is visible from a public sidewalk, street or neighboring property and one of the 17 existing laws are also being violated.

The keg provision is to discourage people from putting open kegs in spots that might draw uninvited guests and give police cause to check out a party with a keg in plain sight, officials said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Those allowing a nuisance party or failing to stop the nuisance and not leave could be fined between $100 and $5,000. After being notified of a nuisance party, landlords would face the same fine range for future nuisance activities on their property.

"These kind of parties are a major source of both illegal underage drinking as well as binge drinking," Soglin said. "It's part of a comprehensive approach where we recognize alcohol abuse occurs in a number of places, including private residences."

The law would give police more options to disperse a big party with enforcement depending on the cooperation of offenders and the gravity of the offense, the mayor said.

A key is making landlords responsible for properties, city alcohol policy coordinator Mark Woulf said.

The proposal, to be introduced to the council Tuesday and decided at a later date, comes after a large, drunken crowd and violence marred the 42nd annual Mifflin Street block party on April 30.

That day, police reported stabbings, sexual assaults, batteries, thefts, robberies and drug deals Downtown during and after the party. Police arrested or cited 162 people and three officers were hurt.

"We're not trying to cut down small gatherings," Woulf said. "We're trying to get at out-of-control house parties where dangerous drinking occurs."

Soglin said he's making the proposal due to long-held concerns about house parties, not the recent Mifflin Street event.

ADVERTISEMENT

Ald. Paul Skidmore, 9th District, who is sponsoring the law with Soglin, said, "This is an ongoing problem that's not getting better. It's a widespread concern. I'd say Mifflin Street is a manifestation of it."

But Ald. Scott Resnick, who represents the student-dominated 8th District near UW-Madison, is cool to the proposal.

"It just goes too far to penalize students when there are already laws on the books," he said.

Bail amounts for citations would be $500 for allowing a nuisance party, $300 for not leaving, and $1,000 for landlords for further nuisances by the same tenants within 12 months.

Student Rebecca Newman, a junior at the university, said the proposal is well intended but that enforcement would likely force students to party in more dangerous, out-of-the-way places. She said better education on binge drinking and safety would help more.

The proposal reflects a law drafted in 2009 at the request of former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz but never introduced to the council, Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Zilavy said.

The Cieslewicz proposal was even tougher because police could have declared a nuisance on the open keg provision lone, she said.

To see more of The Wisconsin State Journal, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.wisconsinstatejournal.com .

ADVERTISEMENT

Copyright (c) 2011, The Wisconsin State Journal/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

What To Read Next