By Shereen Siewert/Editor, Wausau Pilot & Review
Tonight, members of the city’s public health and safety committee will, for the first time in years, revisit the idea of requiring beer fences at Wausau events in which alcohol is served.
We say, it’s about time.
Arguably, the beer fence ordinance has contributed to the demise of the Wisconsin Valley Fair, and has added an unnecessary expense and burden to the dozens of nonprofit organizations that hold events in the city. For one, fair goers are more apt to spend money with vendors if they can buy a beer at one end of the fair and mosey on down to the other end, beer in hand. (And they’ll probably drink less, too.)
And money used to erect large, expensive fences at events could be put to far better use.
We also see beer fences as contributing to an unhealthy culture by attracting attention to alcohol sales and encouraging binge drinking by keeping drinkers stationary.
Attending events in cities throughout Wisconsin, it is glaringly apparent that Wausau is one of the few cities standing when it comes to this archaic rule. Except for a handful of large-scale events, there are no beer fences in Milwaukee, Appleton, Eau Claire, Ashland, Bayfield, Minocqua and Oshkosh. Janesville repealed their requirement a few years ago. And other cities are considering eliminating their ordinances, too.
There are other, more reasonable ways to ensure compliance with alcohol laws. Some cities require wristbands for all attendees at events serving alcohol — one color for age 21 and over, another for the younger crowd. We think our events could be handled the same way.
Another idea is to have nonprofits charge a buck or two for a wristband for anyone who wants to consume alcohol at their events. Rather than wasting money on orange plastic fencing, they’ll be raising money instead.
During his campaign, Mayor Rob Mielke said he supports getting rid of the beer fence requirement.
Now, it’s up to the city council to make the change.
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