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Thiensville beer garden not likely in 2013

Tavern league wants local control

June 25, 2013

Thiensville — Plans for a beer garden in Thiensville Village Park will likely have to wait until next year.

In early-May the Village Board approved in concept a beer garden supplied and operated by Glendale-based Sprecher Brewing Company, though an official proposal hadn't come forward yet. Since then, having received some pressure and blow back from members of the Ozaukee County Tavern League, Sprecher hasn't yet submitted a proposal. Bob and Amy Ollman, co-owners of downtown Thiensville bar and grille Remington's River Inn, have since submitted their own proposal for a Village Park beer garden.

Focused on Sprecher

Trustee David Lange, who first brought the idea of a Sprecher beer garden before the Committee of the Whole in April, said he expects the village in the fall to solicit proposals for a Village Park beer garden — though an approved beer garden wouldn't open until 2014.

"We voted on (conceptual approval) in May, pending the proposal (from Sprecher,) which hasn't come in," Lange said. "I don't anticipate voting on anything for this year."

Village President Van Mobley said it may take until next year to rectify the space issues which would result from a beer garden and farmers market both using Village Park.

Lange himself was the subject of a pointed inquiry by Bob Ollman, who in early-June used an open records request to gather all emails by elected village officials containing the phrase "Thiensville Beer Garden" or "Bier Garten." Ollman said he found it strange that Lange would have sided with only one vendor for the beer garden concept, hinting at but not outright stating suspicions of collusion.

"How one trustee can go out to the market and align himself with one company is odd," Ollman said.

Though the resulting 216 pages of emails didn't confirm his suspicions, Ollman said he did find "a real lack of information to show there was an effort made to talk to different vendors."

No one else called back

Lange said that, impressed by the Estabrook Beer Garden opened by Milwaukee County and Old German Beer Hall proprietor Hans Weisgerber III, he had contacted Weisgerber, Sprecher President Jeff Hamilton, and a representative from the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company in the spring.

"Jeff Hamilton called back and nobody else did. It's just that simple," Lange said. "I was really taken aback by the whole information request process."

Ollman said that, more than anything, he and other Tavern League members are concerned about a big manufacturer like Sprecher operating locally on the retail level.

"If a (beer garden) is imminent, we want to see it locally operated," Ollman said. "We think it's critical that a local business that is vested in the community controls it, so we have control over what it turns into."

Village Administrator Diane Robertson said the beer garden issue will be on the agenda of a July 15 combined Village Board and Committee of the Whole meeting, though specifics of what trustees will discuss aren't known at this point.

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