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Beer on Square OK for Cheese Days
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MONROE - Visitors to Cheese Days 2008 will be able to buy their beers and enjoy them as they walk around the Square.

The Monroe City Council voted 7-3 Tuesday to let the Cheese Days committee go ahead with all of its plans, including selling beer from local breweries, and allowing visitors to take beer and wine out of bars located on the Square and roam the festivities. All open containers on the Square must be plastic.

The request and approval is the first time the city's 2004 "Open Container Ordinance" has been applied.

Cheese Days coordinator Noreen Rueckert spoke to the council Tuesday about the history and future of the event, the fame it brings to the city and the economic boost to area merchants and service organizations.

Rueckert asked council members to look at the event permit "with an open mind" and to put their personal agendas aside.

The Cheese Days committee "didn't make this decision lightly," she said.

The Public Safety Committee on Monday forwarded the issue without recommendation to the council for its consideration.

At council, Thurston Hanson motioned to approve the request, seconded by Keith Ingwell. But after a brief discussion about eliminating the "open container" aspect of the permit by Alderman Jan Lefevre, Chuck Koch moved to amend the original motion to remove that portion of the permit.

The amended motion failed by a 7-3 vote, with Koch, Lefevre and Paul Hannes voting in the minority. The original motion then passed by the same margin.

Koch said he was first against Cheese Days having a beer sales stand on the Square, but was willing to compromise "to give it a fair chance," provided they met all the requirements of every other bar in town and retained people in a certain area. Koch did not agree with "having the entire Square open to beer."

"Alcohol is a hard thing to understand. Everything is so alcohol driven, no matter where you go," he said. "We have to make a stand somewhere. Alcohol is getting to be out of hand."

Ingwell said Cheese Days is a long-standing event in Wisconsin, Monroe and Green County.

"This is, as they used to call it, a Swiss picnic. And at every Swiss picnic, there's cheese and beer. I'd like to see a chance for it to work," Ingwell said.

Alderman Thurston Hanson said he opposes government interference - "when government starts to dictate that little grandpa and grandma can't sit in front of yodelers and have a drink."

Lefevre disagreed with Hanson.

"I'm opposed to beer on the Square; that's why we have bars on the Square," Lefevre said.

She said it was "hard to maintain" control over 100,000 people.

Lefevre expressed concern that new council members "that didn't go through this" would "assume it was all right."

"I don't see an issue with letting them try it," Mark Coplien said. Coplien noted he has a family and has worked evenings at the event in the past.

"I've been to many festivals with open containers and haven't noticed a problem with it," he said. "Most of you will be down there (to see for themselves.)

Later in the meeting, alcohol licenses were brought to the council by the License Committee.

The council unanimously granted the temporary Class "B" license for the Cheese Days Hospitality Tent, where visitors may sample pairings of cheese and beers or wines.

The council voted 7-3 to grant a temporary Class "B" license to Cheese Days to sell the beers of local breweries in Monroe and New Glarus. Koch, Lefevre and Hannes voted against it.

"This is another alcohol-driven event. I don't see how we can keep going like this," Koch said.

Cheese Days' other special event permits include a children's parade, the grand parade, a Carnival, street dances, 5K-10K Chase and two-mile fun walk, arts and crafts fair, and other events.

Farmers market and sidewalk cafe permits are suspended during Cheese Days, Sept. 19-Sept. 22.


Going through city committees just a step ahead of the Cheese Days permits were the event permits for this weekend's Monroe Main Street Summer Fair on the Square and the Green County Humane Society's request for a Class "B" license for a beer garden at the event.

The council unanimously approved the Summer Fair permit and voted 8-2 to grant the Humane Society its alcohol license.

Koch noted the license was for new applications, (not an annual request from an organization).

"Again, another event turning into an alcohol event," he said. "I don't see why, for this event, we need to have alcohol."

Hanson said the license would bring in good revenues for the organization.

"The Humane Society needs cash, like any other organization," he said.

The Humane Society's "beer pen" (garden) will be a roped off area of 30 feet by 40 feet, with one entrance, and will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9. There is not an open container request clause in the Summer Fair permits.