Proposal to add German-style beer garden at Olbrich Park in Madi - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Proposal to add German-style beer garden at Olbrich Park in Madison

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UPDATE (WKOW)-- Beer gardens have become a popular hangout spot for many in Wisconsin. Several beer gardens have been built  in the city of Madison in recent years, but never has there been one at a city park, until now.

Wednesday night local company BKM Group LLC. will try to convince the Madison Alcohol License Review Committee to give them a liquor license so they can build a beer garden at Olbrich Park.

"It's a beautiful spot, a beautiful view of Lake Monona," co-owner Mike Bare says. "Unfortunately it has gone into some under-use in the past few years."

Bare says he and his partners are hoping to have the beer garden up and running by next Spring. The idea came from Milwaukee County where they currently have four permanent beer gardens and two traveling beer gardens. Park staff are also planning to open a fifth permanent location in 2017.

"It is very well controlled," says Milwaukee County Parks Manager Joe Mrozinski. "There really hasn't been any issues."

Mrozinski says the first beer garden opened back in 2012. Since then the parks have led to a decrease in crime and vandalism and have also added nearly a million dollars in annual revenue.

"It was kind of tough to get approval for the first beer garden or two, but after that, people saw how successful they are and what it's about."

Madison Alder David Ahrens wasn't thrilled about the idea of building a beer garden in his district, especially at Olbrich Park where they've banned alcohol in the past due to ongoing problems.

"We had a group of people who would come here and drink and cause problems," Ahrens explains.

But after taking a closer look at the idea, and seeing the success stories in Milwaukee County, he's now on board with it.

"It's not going to be a late night garden," Ahrens says. "We want it to close at nine or ten each night."

Madison Parks Commission President David Wallner has seen three of these beer gardens firsthand and immediately wanted to bring the idea to Madison.

"You could get a beer and brat or a root beer. The kids were there with soccer balls playing on the playgrounds," Wallner explains. "It was such a great family atmosphere."

Parks Community Services Manager Claire Oleksiak feels the idea will bring more people to an underutilized park. Besides the beer garden she says they're also working with another local company to add a boat rental shop at Olbrich Park.

"We have this beautiful park and facility that are underutilized and in somewhat disrepair," Oleksiak says. "We're trying to find ways to bring more users and activities there and really have the community embrace this park."

Besides securing a liquor license, the common council will also have to approve this project. Ahrens says he's heard some opposition from a few of his constituents, but hasn't seen any organized efforts against it.

Once the common council approves the idea the Madison Parks Commission will have the final say. Wallner says the idea will likely pass if it gets that far in the process. He says the idea has received wide support among commissioners and park staff.

The Alcohol License Review Committee will meet Wednesday night at 5:20 to discuss the licensing for this new beer garden. The meeting will feature a brief public comment period where residents can share their thoughts on this proposal.


MADISON (WKOW)-- If you've ever visited Milwaukee County Parks, you may have come across one of their five beer gardens. They've quickly become some of the county's biggest go-to hot spots and now a group of developers want to bring that idea to Madison.

BKM Group LLC. is in the process of applying for a liquor license so they can build a beer garden at Olbrich Park. Co-owner Mike Bare says the idea came about as a way to give Madison residents another way to enjoy the local lakes.

The Madison Parks Division would oversee the site, along with members of BKM Group LLC.

Tonight on 27 News, Gordon Severson asks Madison leaders what they think about this idea of serving alcohol at a city park. Feel free to join the conversation as well using the 27 News Facebook Page.

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