Madison’s Orpheum Theater loses liquor license

Business cancelled state seller's permit
Madison’s Orpheum Theater loses liquor license

The Orpheum Theater has been part of Madison’s State Street since the 1920s, but the venue’s future could be in jeopardy.

The Madison Common Council voted to take away the theater’s liquor license.

City leaders said someone with the business canceled their state seller’s permit last year, which is required for an establishment to have a liquor license. Because of this, the Orpheum shouldn’t have been selling alcohol for the last 14 months.

However, one of the Orpheum owners, Eric Flemming, said the state seller’s permit was canceled this year.

“I did not cancel the seller’s permit,” said Flemming. “That was done by Henry (Doane) without giving me notice, which I would have fixed at the time. It happened on April 15 of this year.”

Flemming and co-owner Doane have been at odds over the management of the venue for the past few months. Flemming alleges his business partner of dropping from state records in an attempt to negatively affect the business. Both men are tangled in multiple lawsuits regarding ownership and operation of the theater, WISC-TV reported.

The problems with the liquor license could close the business that has been a downtown fixture for decades.

Despite those concerns, Flemming said the Orpheum isn’t closing and there’s no reason to worry. He said they will apply for a provisional liquor license to straighten things out. That would allow them to keep serving alcohol for 60 days, until the process is complete.

If that doesn’t work for some reason, he said the Orpheum will bring in a third party, who can legally sell alcohol for all of the events they have booked.

On Monday, the city’s Alcohol License and Review Committee voted not to renew the Orpheum’s liquor license. That decision went before the Common Council on Tuesday night.

“If the applicant did not provide the committee with a valid state seller’s permit, basically, they could not renew the license.” said Mark Woulf, Madison alcohol policy coordinator. “So, the committee did not renew the license based off of that.”

The theater is a reminder of good times for many longtime residents. Ed Krueger, who has been in Madison since 1966, said the mere sight of the Orpheum’s famous marquee prompts him to stop and reflect.


“This is where I saw Bob Marley,” said Krueger, “a million years ago.”

Look closely at the venue and many might spot the theater shows signs its age from all the live shows and films that are presented inside.

For now, fans of the theater can only hope for an encore for the venue.

“Physically, it’s a great theater.” said Krueger, “It’s one of the old movie palaces. It’s the only one left here.”