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Thiensville discussing beer garden for Village Park

Some officials concerned about impact on local businesses

Nov. 6, 2012

Thiensville - The sounds and sights of German music and beer could soon become a reality at Village Park.

Noting this year's successful beer garden at Estabrook Park - a natural space operated by Milwaukee County and bordering Glendale, Milwaukee and Shorewood - several Thiensville officials have broached the idea of replicating the success at the community's sole park.

The Milwaukee County Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture entered into a contract with Hans Weisgerber III, owner of the Old German Beer Hall in downtown Milwaukee. Weisgerber has been charged with operating the beer garden, and a portion of the proceeds go to the county.

County officials have asserted the inaugural year of the beer garden was a success, and plans are in motion to have an identical amenity at other county-run parks.

Members of the Thiensville Business Renaissance Commission discussed the proposal at a Village Board Committee of the Whole meeting Monday. If the village were to move forward with the plan, the beer garden would be run by an outside entity, likely Weisgerber, and the village would receive some of the proceeds.

"My interest is getting people into Thiensville," said Trustee David Lange, who serves on the commission. "This is something that's upscale and has been well attended."

Board members had myriad opinions on the proposal, and a consensus was reached to move forward on the exploration phase.

Village President Van Mobley and Trustee Ron Heinritz had a few reservations, particularly on the potential impact a beer garden could have on Thiensville's business community.

"It would have to be something that's fully vetted," Mobley said. "I would want that input from our local businesses."

But at face value, several board members expressed enthusiasm as the village embarks on its grand mission of refocusing and revamping the heavy arterial roadways along and near Main Street.

"The goal is to make Village Park a destination," Trustee Kim Beck said. "We want people to come here, and I think this could become a draw."

Trustee John Treffert said he attended the Estabrook Park beer garden on a number of occasions this summer and had a favorable impression of it.

"We've been talking about events like movies in the park, and I think this could be another way of looking at how we use our park," Treffert said.

Several village staffers weighed in on the proposal at Monday's meeting.

Director of Public Works Andrew LaFond said Village Park is frequented in the summer, particularly during Little League games. Also, he said the grounds and neighboring facilities are periodically rented out for family and group functions.

"Parking is at a premium during these events," LaFond said. "All of these things would have to come together to make (the beer garden proposal) work."

Fire Chief Brian Reiels said the parks are underutilized, and he favored looking further into the proposal.

"I do think there could be an opportunity," Reiels said.

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