Last Monday night, February 22nd, the Lake Geneva City Council addressed liquor licenses filed by Lake Geneva Country Meats in order to host pop-up events at the old Flemings store located at 711 Main Street downtown.
What should have been an approval for them, to be able to serve alcohol at their charity dinner events, turned into quite a discussion about the events as a whole, the pop-up presentations at retail shops, with the focus on almost anything but the actual liquor license, took over. Nick, from Lake Geneva Country Meats, has been working very closely with Fred, the building inspector from building and zoning, and Lana the city clerk. Those two officials agreed to issue the business license because the space was going to be used more as retail than as restaurant, and therefore fell under retail land use. The pop-up charity dinners were being held in a brick-and-mortar building which is already zoned for retail and is allowed within the business improvement district. The fact that no cooking is involved (it is being catered in) does not classify the space as a restaurant. Lana stated that everything looked good from her end and she had no issues with granting the liquor license.
Mary Jo Fesenmaier, on the council, compared this event to the events catered at the ballroom in the Riviera in the past, questioning if there would be inspections from the health department and facilities for handwashing. Fred explained that Lake Geneva Country Meats had already reached out to the health department and taken care of things on its end, as it was responsible and not the city. Fesenmaier still had doubts about approving the liquor license, stating that the council is responsible for making sure everything is done to protect the people and look at all views of the events. The city council also does not release its responsibility to fundraising organizations. Councilperson Straube interjected and tried to explain that the object of the council was to look at and vote on the liquor license not the event as a whole. Flower agreed with Straube, saying people shouldn’t suffer because the city doesn’t have a process in place for these new popup events. She stated that the city has no problem issuing permits and liquor licenses for festivals that last for days but somehow can’t issue a liquor license for an event that is four hours long.
The next opposition that was brought up was the fact that the neighbors should have a say, because of the potential noise the event could bring to the space. The events were scheduled from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. when the other stores are typically closed, so there would be no one on either side of them to interrupt. When the liquor licenses were finally brought up for a vote; Fesenmaier, Yunkers, Halverson, and Dunn voted to continue approval to the next city council meeting on March 8th, while Howell, Straube, and Flower voted to approve immediately. With the liquor licenses being ostensibly and temporarily denied, the events were canceled because alcohol was part of the fundraiser and it couldn’t be served. It seems the council voted on the event as a whole and not the issue at hand, which was about the issuance of a temporary liquor license.
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