City considers open beer on Main Street
Waupaca downtown event organizers seek permit
By Angie Landsverk
A new event called the Mini Sputter Open is spurring a request to allow open intoxicants on city streets and public sidewalks.
The request went before the Waupaca Common Council during its July 7 meeting but no action was taken.
Mayor Brian Smith told Brennan Kane, the city’s community and economic development director, to talk to officials from other communities about how they handle such requests before it goes back before the council.
The Mini Sputter Open will be held from 4-9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, in downtown Waupaca.
The nine-hole mini-golf event will take place on Main Street, in front of city hall.
It is being described as a family-friendly event, which will also include potato-themed dishes at several local restaurants, a “tater tot” lot for children’s games, and other potato-related activities.
Business owners will stay open later that day to allow families to shop during the event.
The Mini Sputter Open is the first of two new events scheduled to occur in the downtown area this year.
The city, Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce and retailers are working together to establish new events to attract more people to visit downtown to eat and shop locally.
The idea is the result of recent downtown visioning efforts and downtown business forums.
Some business owners expressed concerns about how the upcoming reconstruction of Main Street will affect them.
The project is tentatively scheduled for 2018-19.
Kane said they want to start holding new events now in order to make them solid events before the reconstruction occurs.
They want to drive traffic and activity to the area to mitigate any effects during construction, he said.
“Originally, we thought about five events. We decided to start with two,” Kane told the council.
The city does not currently have an ordinance that allows open intoxicants to be consumed on streets or public sidewalks.
“Not all events we’re proposing will be alcohol related,” Kane said.
For the Mini Sputter Open, the sale of alcohol would be handled by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and their volunteers, he said.
Only individuals with wristbands and branded cups would be allowed to drink alcohol within the public area.
Volunteers would manage key intersections and exit points to prohibit people from consuming open intoxicants any further than allowed.
Kane said the concept has been discussed with the Waupaca Police Department, and the group involved in planning the event has agreed to pay for off-duty police officers.
“We will need an ordinance change to do this,” he said. “There are other communities that allow this to occur on a temporary basis. There is language out there.”
Kane said some establishments on Main Street might also request to extend their premises for a temporary basis that night.
Noting the area for children will be on city hall’s front lawn, Ald. Lori Chesnut said she wonders what kind of message they would be sending.
“If someone really needs to drink, they can go in an establishment and get a drink,” she said. “Why is there the need for alcohol now?”
Kane said it was the group’s request.
There are one or two other organizations that sponsor family-oriented events that may also make the request.
Steve Laedtke, a member of the Waupaca Community Arts Board, was at last week’s council meeting and said the group would also like to see this occur during Arts on the Square.
The annual arts festival is being held Friday and Saturday, Aug. 14 and 15, on the city square.
With three stages of music on Saturday, Laedtke said the organization believes it would be a much more relaxed and enjoyable festival if people were “not confined to one area to have a beer.”
In regard to the Aug. 27 Mini Sputter Open, Ald. Dave Peterson said he thinks the alcohol should be kept to a confined area.
City Administrator Henry Veleker said if the area was confined to Main Street, the city would still need to change its ordinance.
Kane said the intent would be to allow it in a public area, with it determined on a case-by-case basis with applications.
The mayor said the city has given permission for alcohol to be served on city streets in the past.
City Attorney John Hart said at Arts on the Square, the beer tent premise has had to be defined in the past.
“There will be lots of kids coming up to play mini-golf,” he said of the Aug. 27 event. “If they don’t come with and stay with their parents, it will be hard to control.”