Alcohol Outlet Density in the Greenbush-Vilas Neighborhood, Madison, Wisconsin

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The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute conducted a health impact assessment (HIA) of an Alcohol Limiting Density Ordinance (ALDO) to determine how the health of residents and visitors of the Greenbush-Vilas Neighborhood would be affected. The neighborhood is adjacent to the football stadium and campus of the University of Wisconsin. To address the consequences of high-risk drinking, particularly in the downtown Madison area, the Madison Common Council adopted the ALDO in 2007, which placed a limit on the number of new alcohol licenses in the Capital Square and State Street areas of the city. The ordinance expired January 1, 2014. High-risk drinking occurs outside the areas covered by the ALDO, especially near the University of Wisconsin football stadium in the Regent Street and University Avenue corridors in the Greenbush-Vilas Neighborhood. The HIA examined how neighborhood conditions and stability; drunk driving; alcohol-related violent crime, injury, and death; and risky sexual behaviors could be affected if the ALDO was renewed and expanded to include university areas in the Greenbush-Vilas Neighborhood.


The HIA offered recommendations to limit alcohol outlet density in Madison, Wisconsin. In particular, the HIA recommended limiting or eliminating temporary liquor licenses, improving the regulation of house parties and policing secondary effects of alcohol in neighborhoods, and strengthening data collection to better understand the impacts of contributors to alcohol problems. The HIA was a tangible way for the Health Department to partner with City on a healthy community design initiative. In April 2014, the City Council voted to approve changes to the Alcohol License Density Ordinance, which took effect in July 2014. The changes replaced the density ordinance with a defined “overlay district ” that restricts new taverns from being located in the downtown overlay district, which includes two blocks at the end of State Street, the neighboring area of University Avenue, one block of N. Frances, N. Broom and W. Gilman streets. In addition, the new ordinance provides new definitions for types of alcohol licenses in order to attract more diverse businesses to downtown.

This Health Impact Assessment Report first appeared in The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health. The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health was originally developed by the Health Impact Project, formerly a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The creation of this resource was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts, or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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