The party behind a proposed German-style biergarten for Olbrich Park promises a communal and authentic experience.
“The focus is on having a place for the community and families to gather and have a beer in a nice atmosphere,” says Mike Bare of the BKM Group, which would construct and manage the site. “It’ll look like it came right out of Munich.”
The community that lives nearest to the site will have a chance to get more details Dec. 8, when Bare meets with Olbrich-area neighbors at the Lake Edge Lutheran Church, 4032 Monona Drive. At that time, he’ll respond to questions about serving alcohol and the potential for noise, excess crowds, traffic and litter. Bare says he’s also been responding individually to questions, but so far feels the overall support for his biergarten is strong.
The Madison Alcohol License Review Committee recently delayed action on the project until Dec. 21 to allow more time to address questions from neighbors.
The biergarten would be located near the Olbrich Park beach and beach house, on the lake’s eastern edge along Atwood Avenue.
Bare’s plan is for a seasonal biergarten that would operate from around mid-April into early November, depending upon the optimal weather for enjoying beer and food in the open-garden atmosphere. Milwaukee has allowed similar concessions in select parks for several years, and the BKM Group is basing much of its proposal on success there.
The biergarten would have a couple dozen picnic tables, with seating for up to 200 persons. Bare is planning larger communal tables that seat up to eight each, which he hopes will encourage sharing space. The venue will also offer unobstructed views of the water and the downtown skyline. The garden would be connected by a pathway to the current beach house, where beer and food would be sold, with additional picnic seating for approximately 100 persons.
The current proposal calls for some modifications to the existing beach house to accommodate serving pretzels, brats and ice cream, in addition to beer. Some of the needed renovations would be paid for by the city and the parks department, while the BMK Group would be responsible for managing the biergarten. The updates to the beach house are expected to be mostly improvements to the roof, new paint and electrical service. (Rutabaga Paddlesports is proposing to operate out of the beachouse as well.)
Bare says he plans to serve only local beer and local food. “The vision is for all alcohol to be sourced from the state of Wisconsin, and we plan to serve only food from Dane County,” says Bare.
If approved by the ALRC, the biergarten would still need final approval from the Parks Commission, the Board of Estimates and the Common Council. Bare is hoping to have all the necessary agreements in place by February and be pouring beer by May.