In three months, restaurants in the city of Madison will not be able to give dine-in customers plastic straws unless the customer asks for one.
The Madison City Council on Tuesday adopted an ordinance that limits the use of plastic straws and stir sticks throughout the city. Under the new law — which was approved on a near-unanimous vote — waitstaff, bartenders and other workers will still be able to ask patrons if they would like a straw, but will be barred from handing them out unprompted.
Ald. Syed Abbas, the main sponsor of the measure, said the purpose of the new law is to prevent plastic straws from being handed out automatically for all drinks, causing unnecessary waste when customers don’t end up using the straw or stir stick. These single-use plastics, which cannot be recycled in Madison because of their small size and unusual shape, end up in the city’s landfills and lakes.
Abbas said he would like to pursue more aggressive city ordinances to limit plastic bottles, bags and other plastic items, but state law doesn’t currently allow it.
“This is absolutely a baby step, but this is a right step in a right direction,” Abbas said.
The ordinance applies to all restaurants, including coffee shops, bars, cafes, sandwich stands, food trucks, cafeterias and “all other eating and drinking establishments.” It won’t apply to churches, sororities and fraternities, which occasionally serve food.
Restaurants would still be allowed to give straws to take-out and drive-thru customers and can give dine-in customers plastic straw alternatives, such as paper, bamboo or reusable metal straws. Restaurants would also be able to leave straws out for customers to grab on their own.
The new law will take effect in three months to ensure Madison’s restaurants have time to change their procedures. Starting then, any restaurant that violates the ordinance can be fined between $25 and $100.
Although he wants to reduce plastic waste and support the environment, Ald. Keith Furman, 19th District, voted against the measure. He said the city does not currently have a good mechanism in place to enforce violations.
“I think it’s a real mistake to pass laws and not understand how we’re going to enforce it,” Furman said.
But Ald. Tag Evers, who voted in support, said the city has a number of ordinances that are enforced based on complaints from residents. He said he thinks the new law will change behaviors.
Furman was also concerned about the potential impact on residents with disabilities, but Abbas said the Disability Rights Commission was heavily involved in the drafting process and ultimately supported the measure.
Strip club denied
Also Tuesday, the council denied license requests that would have allowed Visions Nightclub — the city’s only strip club — to move forward with plans to transfer ownership to Silk Exotic, a strip club chain with locations in Milwaukee and Middleton.
Visions has been closed since Jan. 1 because of a complaint brought against the club after growing concerns about disturbances, fights, weapons violations and injuries, including a shooting and stabbing that left five people injured in December 2018. As a result of the complaint, the council approved an agreement to close the club for 90 days.
Visions owner David Brown had wanted to sell the club to Silk Exotic, which had plans to remodel the facility with a more subtle exterior design and heightened security.
But the council unanimously rejected Silk Exotic’s request for alcohol, entertainment and adult entertainment licenses. Ald. Grant Foster, who represents the area, said the licenses were rejected in large part because Silk did not have a good plan for parking. Also, the establishment was not a good fit with the largely-residential surrounding area.
Visions is allowed to re-open at the end of March, when its 90-day suspension will be lifted, as long as it meets conditions involving security improvements. Foster said he’s not sure what the club’s plans are.
In other business, the council rescinded a routine resolution that would have honored former Madison Police Chief Mike Koval after he retired with one day of notice in September.
Resolutions honoring longtime city employees are common, typically unanimously supported and don’t generally spark controversy, but Koval had said he did not wish to be honored and asked for the resolution to be retracted.
Earlier this week, Koval told the Wisconsin State Journal that although he was “delighted” and “humbled” that council members wanted to honor him, “philosophically, I’m of a belief that policing is the ultimate team sport.”