Imagine a beautiful Saturday summer evening with a light breeze off Lake Monona, a view of downtown, a cold beer in your hand, and gemütlichkeit all around. That vision for a German-style biergarten is what I presented along with two business partners to the City of Madison’s request for proposals for “park place-making concepts” at Olbrich Park’s underutilized Beach House.
We are excited that the City chose our biergarten idea alongside Rutabaga Paddlesports to provide water sport and other recreational rental opportunities.
Biergartens in public places were ubiquitous in America before prohibition, and are now making a return. In 2012, Milwaukee County contracted with a vendor to operate a biergarten at Estabrook Park. After its initial success, the operation expanded, and Milwaukee County now has five fixed biergartens in its parks. The significant revenue has been a boon for taxpayers and the biergartens are places for the public to enjoy their parks. The parks surrounding the biergartens have also seen significant investment and growth, including new playground sets, and sports and recreation facilities.
For more than eight decades (since 1933), beer has been served at the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union Terrace. Memories made at the Terrace are shared by generations of Madisonians. The Olbrich Biergarten will shape similar memories and provide a public place for responsible enjoyment of a beer or glass of wine in a setting that is a rarely used treasure.
During your visit to the Olbrich Biergarten, you could buy beer, wine, cider, sports drinks, root beer, water, soft pretzels, bratwurst, kid-friendly and healthy treats, water, sports drinks and root beer. You could also bring your own food and drink (though local ordinance prohibits outside alcohol), along with flowers for the centerpiece. The biergarten would be open seasonally from May to October depending on weather, seven days a week, 4pm to 10pm on weekdays and noon to 10pm on weekends. Last cal would be at 9:30pm. Closing at 10pm is consistent with current park hours.
Today, Olbrich Park receives a lot of use, but the Beach House has fallen into some disrepair. On a visit in early June, the building had been tagged in at least three places with graffiti. The safety and cleanliness of the bathrooms is also suspect. Additionally, Olbrich Park has had its fair share of problems with alcohol consumption. Our proposal is for an atmosphere in which responsible consumption occurs, monitored by staff, which would be safe and open to families. Capital investments to the building, on-site staff, a security system, and a bustling biergarten will certainly help create a place that is safe for enjoyment by all park users.
We would want the space to feel like a slice of Germany. We would beautify and upgrade the building, grounds and restrooms. Strings of small globe lights would illuminate the beer garden’s picnic tables along the shore. We would not disturb the shoreline, but would ask the City’s help in cleaning up invasive overgrowth in compliance with local, state or federal shore land protections. We would also install new bike racks.
We hope you will support our vision as we begin the process of obtaining the necessary permits and licenses to make the Olbrich Biergarten a reality. We will be holding a formal informational session from 6pm to 7pm on October 27th at the Olbrich Park Beach House. In the meantime, please contact me with any suggestions or concerns at email@example.com or by phone at (608) 620-3001.
Mike Bare is a co-owner of BKM Group, LLC, which has begun contract negotiations with the City of Madison to open a biergarten at Olbrich Park in Madison, WI.
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