City News

Madison beer garden proposal secures alcohol license

After months of dispute among city officials and residents, Madison’s alcohol licensing committee granted a liquor permit Wednesday for a German-style beer garden that would sit on the Lake Monona shoreline.

With a 5-2 vote by the Alcohol License Review Committee in favor of granting a Class B alcohol license, the project developer, BKM Group LLC, would be allowed to sell beer at its concessions if the project proposal gains approval from city council next month.

The beer garden would be built next to Olbrich Park, surrounded by the Eastmoreland neighborhood. It would be open until 10 p.m., seasonally and weather-permitting, with last call at 9 p.m. and end-of-service at 9:30 p.m.

Wednesday’s vote brought 36 community members to speak before the Alcohol License Review Committee. Additionally, numerous people sent comments and concerns online to be considered by committee members at the meeting.

Opponents to the proposal voiced concerns about noise levels and underage drinking believe granting a liquor license to an Olbrich Park area establishment would bring.

“It sends an odd and negative message,” Jeanne Kaether, an Eastmoreland homeowner, said. “I’m concerned about the safety and welfare of our neighborhood.”

Another city resident who also lives near Olbrich Park said the beer garden was an “untested pilot project” and so capacity should be limited to a capacity of 150 people.

BKM Group developer Mike Bare said the business model has been tested throughout the state, noting that Milwaukee has many beer gardens. Bare also said Madison has already housed a similar enterprise for a long time.

“We’ve been selling beer at the [Memorial Union] terrace since 1933,” Bare said. “It’s not a new concept.”

Prior to Wednesday’s decision, BKM Group made several adjustments to its business plan in attempt to address opponent concerns expressed at two prior ALRC meetings. Changes included a reduction in capacity from 300 to 240 people, disallowing amplified sound two nights a week and setting an earlier last-call time.
The proposal will be reviewed at a Mar. 7 Common Council meeting.

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