A beer garden in Oconomowoc?
Parks director, mayor, aldermen share thoughts

By Jake Meister - Enterprise Staff

July 13, 2017

 Alderman Matt Rosek thinks the backyard of the Oconomowoc Community Center would be an excellent spot for a beer garden or food carts.
Jake Meister/Enterprise Staff

OCONOMOWOC — Both rotating and permanent beer gardens are sprouting up throughout Waukesha County and some city officials have expressed interest in helping that craze spread to Oconomowoc.

Waukesha County is partnering with Raised Grain Brewing Company throughout the summer to bring a rotating beer garden to three county parks and the city of Waukesha will hold a beer garden during several August dates. In addition, the village of Hartland has brought a beer garden to its Nixon Park by working with a local business owner.

While each of these beer gardens operate, the city of Oconomowoc will take note. Its Parks, Recreation & Forestry Director John Kelliher said his department will reach out to some of his colleagues in the county who operate these gardens to get a better grasp on whether a fixed or moving beer garden would work in city parks. There is also the chance that the city will opt to not have a beer garden.

Alderman Matt Rosek has been supportive of placing a beer garden behind the Oconomowoc Community Center, a green space he said is both gorgeous and underutilized during the week.

Rosek said the space is “probably one of the coolest spaces in the area bar none.”

“I can’t believe that it’s not being used.”

 Cord Miller and Danielle Schrieter watch as dogs Easton and Bauer cool off on the shore of Fowler Lake at the Village Green Park during a balmy late Tuesday morning. The Village Green is one of several places where the city could create a beer garden should it decide to go that route.
Jake Meister/Enterprise Staff

Rosek said the city wouldn’t have to stop at a beer garden — a few food carts, he reasoned, could be quite popular at the spot.

The facilities the community center already has would enhance the offering of a beer garden or food cart, Rosek believes. He likes the overhang the center provides and said the restrooms are underutilized both during the week and during weekends when the area is closed for weddings.

He said the food carts and beer garden could complement each other and make the community center more vibrant.

A vendor already sells food and refreshments at the community center’s neighbor, City Beach. Kelliher said that detail must be taken into account when considering a beer garden behind the community center.

Kelliher also spoke to the lack of weekend availability at the location. He said space behind the community center has been booked for a wedding reception or another event every Saturday between mid-April to mid-October for the last two years.

 Village Green Park and its available space is one of several city-owned spots that could accommodate a possible beer garden.
Jake Meister/Enterprise Staff

The city would have to determine how to make all these elements coexist.

Alderman Lou Kowieski thinks a beer garden, food cart hub or something similar would work, but he doesn’t think the space behind the community center is the best choice. He said he’d prefer to use the green space to the west of the boat launch off to the side of the community center for such business.

He said the public launch is a place that the council has discussed upgrading in the past.

“If you upgrade the launch, maybe put in a small structure that could accommodate a beer garden or something else that could draw people to that area,” Kowieski said.

He said the Rhodee Memorial Band Shell at 324 W. Wisconsin Ave. is close enough that the concerts and other events that are held there now would mix well with the stands at the green space.

Like Kelliher, Mayor Dave Nold said the city would have to look at its options to decide what location might be best for a beer garden in Oconomowoc. Nold citing Roosevelt Park — which Rosek also alluded to for a beer garden — and Village Green Park as possibilities.

Nold also said the city must make sure a beer garden would not negatively impact downtown businesses.

Email: jmeister@conleynet.com