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Beer garden ideas brewing in De Pere

By Lee Reinsch

DE PERE – De Pere city parks could benefit from a future beer garden, if the De Pere Common Council okays a special parks fund from beer garden proceeds.

The De Pere Board of Park Commissioners discussed how the beer garden events would work and who would run them.

One choice the board had to make is whether the city would run them itself or outsource it to a private entity experienced in running events.

“If we did it, the risks would be high (due to the event being new, bad weather or competition) but the rewards would be high,” said Marty Kosobucki, director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry. “If we contracted it out, the rewards (revenue-wise) would be low, but the risks would be low, too.”

In Milwaukee, the city runs some beer gardens and contracts out others.

“Both can coexist, but that’s a long way out,” Kosobucki said.

Milwaukee’s beer gardens started several years and are seen as a model for De Pere’s.

If the city ran it, the parks department would staff it and contract with food and beverage vendors.

Kosobucki said staff would have bartenders licenses, even though state law doesn’t require such licensing for city-run events.

Alderman Ryan Jennings said he’s not in favor of an outside group running the event because of the possibility that the city could lose control of the event.

“I’d be in favor of the city taking the lead on this,” Jennings said.

Commissioner Bill Volpano agreed, adding that if drinking got out of hand, a private entity might not be very concerned.

“But if we had our own people there, we’d be very concerned,” Volpano said. “This is brand new for us, why hire it out to a private entity right away?”

But Commissioner Randy Soquet said he’d be interested in exploring what outside entities had to offer.

The board will recommend to Common Council that the city run the beer garden.

The future beer garden would run three times its first summer, on the last Tuesday of July, August and September of this year.

Kosobucki estimates each beer garden event would cost about $1,500 and take in about $2,600 through beer sales and sponsorships, netting about $1,100 per event.

Parks fund

The board will recommend the Common Council establish a parks fund fed by beer garden proceeds.

“That’s actually what Milwaukee does,” Kosobucki said. “Money goes into the fund and it just turns into playgrounds, lighting and fields.”

De Pere Common Council Alderman Casey Nelson presented the idea of a family-friendly beer garden to the park commissioners last September.

In January, the Common Council changed municipal ordinances to allow for the sale and consumption of alcohol in city parks, paving the way for a potential beer garden.

The intent is to create family-friendly opportunities to gather and listen to music and not a big drinking fest, according to the board.

Alderman Dean Raasch reminded the board to keep in mind safety considerations and special-event support staff, such as traffic control, parking attendants, and EMT or fire personnel, on site, as well as any potential liability.

“If you have 3,000 people, there’s a lot more to worry about,” Kosobucki said. “That’s why we want to start out very slow with this, so we have time to grow; we don’t envision 1,000 people showing up for the first one, and if they do, we’ve got some issues to discuss before the next one. But I don’t anticipate that at the first one.”

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