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A split call on beer garden requests
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MONROE - A Monroe city committee on Monday put a stamp of approval on one request to have a beer garden at a downtown event, but stopped short of endorsing another proposal.

Members of the Public Safety Committee Monday night discussed special events permits of the Monroe Main Street Summer Fair on the Square and Green County Cheese Days. Organizers of both festivals are planning to have beer "gardens" or sectioned-off areas.

The Green County Humane Society has submitted a request for a temporary Class "B" license from the License Committee for the Summer Fair on the Square this weekend. The garden will be an area used as a mini-skate park during the day and converted at 5 p.m. for beer sales.

The Cheese Days committee has also submitted a request for a temporary Class "B" license and a wine license for not only samples of local breweries' products at a hospitality tent, but also sales.

Public Safety could not deny the temporary license requests; that "has to be approved by the License Committee" Monroe Police Chief Fred Kelley said.

Public Safety recommended the City Council approve Monroe Main Street's special events permit. It sent the Cheese Days permit without recommendation to the council for consideration.

The difference? The Cheese Days permit requests a relaxation of the city's open container law. That would allow attendees to leave the bars or beer garden and tent on the Square and walk around with plastic containers of beer or wine.

An ordinance created in 2004 allows for the relaxation with council approval. The council meets today at 7:30 p.m.

Kelley said Cheese Days would be sponsors of the "open container" event and could set times for the event, in consideration of the safety and security of the community.

He saw no problem in controlling crowds on the Square at either event.

"The Square itself is easy to isolate because of its design," he said, and beer gardens have not been a problem in the past.

"We don't intend to advertise this on radio and television; there's no plan to hype the whole idea to the point of it becoming something everyone rushes here," Steve Streiff, vice president of the Cheese Days Committee, said. "We want to keep this as low-key as possible. We're not promoting a house party for everyone."

Aldermen were split on allowing alcohol at the events.

"I'm concerned why all these organizations and non-profit people, all of a sudden, think they have to have alcohol to succeed," committee member Chuck Koch said.

Member Keith Ingwell said he knows of other communities that have beer on their squares as a money maker, and the organizations are in control of the events.

Alderman Jan Lefevre said she has heard from people 60-to-1 against the idea of having beer on the Square.

"One person said they didn't want it to become like State Street (in Madison) at Halloween," she said. Lefevre also mentioned beer sales on the Square is in competition with bars on the Square.

Alderman Thurston Hanson said he has not had any calls for or against the issue, and what he was hearing at the meeting was that it would create a law enforcement issue.

"It's a legal product," he said. "I trust the Cheeses Days committee; I trust the law enforcement."