Community expresses frustrations with Olbrich Biergarten project

The owner of a proposed beer garden in Olbrich Park answered questions for District 15 residents at the community meeting. (Maija Inveiss/Madison Commons)The owner of a proposed beer garden in Olbrich Park answered questions for District 15 residents at the community meeting. (Maija Inveiss/Madison Commons)


During a tense but lively community meeting for District 15, the neighbors and community members near Olbrich Park addressed their concerns for the construction of a German-style biergarten.

The proposed owners, the BKM Group, plan to transform the Olbrich beach house into the biergarten. The Olbrich Biergarten, if approved by the city council, will begin construction as soon as weather permits in hopes of opening May 2017.

The Parks Commission selected two different proposals for the beach house in Olbrich Park. One is from Rutabaga Paddlesports, which works with a couple different parks around the area and rents out water equipment and the other – the biergarten. The two will work alongside one another.

Ald. David Ahrens, District 15 held the meeting Thursday night to provide the community with an opportunity to speak with the proposed owners and Parks Department staff. Ahrens said the goal was for the BKM Group to describe the proposal and answer some of the questions from the community.

About 60 individuals packed into the church, many of which not only wanted to learn about the project, but also wanted to express their negative criticisms and demand answers to larger questions.

Mike Bare, one of the co-owners of the BKM Group, said the biergarten would be open seven days a week during the open operating months. He said they will be strict on a 9:30 p.m. last call and prompt 10 p.m. closure, in compliance with park rules.

“For me, this about creating a community, a space that’s enjoyable and open to everybody,” Bare said. “It’s not about making money. It’s not about anything else. It’s about creating a place that’s going to be interesting, fun and enjoyable for all of you.”

The Olbrich Biergarten proposal has been met with heavy discussion and controversy from the community. At the last Alcohol Licence Review Committee meeting, many community members for District 15 spoke in front of committee members. Ultimately the committee decided to refer the proposal to the next meeting in December after getting more information from the Parks Department.

One of the biggest issues for the community was the lack of hospitality experience with the three owners of the BKM Group. The Olbrich Biergarten would be their first project. Bare was upfront in the beginning of the presentation about their lack of expertise in the hospitality area.

Members of the community were also concerned about the noise level of people talking and the music as well as the amount of parking spaces. Bare said within their current proposal they do not plan on building any more parking space. He also noted that they did a sound test to see the impact on the neighborhood and found it was not audible at all across the street.

Overall, there was a general concern over the addition of alcohol into an area of the park. Bare said minors will not be allowed in the biergarten unaccompanied and alcohol will not be permitted in areas outside of the garden itself.

Bare said they want to create an inviting space where members of the community can bring their own food if they wish and share tables with others.

“That’s really what we are looking for, a community coming together,” Bare said.

Before the proposal can move on to Common Council, there will be a Parks Commission Dec. 14 and another meeting of the ALRC on Dec. 21. If the project receives approval from both, it should move to the Common Council agenda sometime early January.