LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – A city proposal to increase the fees for beer garden is receiving a lot of push back from the tavern community.
Beer gardens are places for people to sit outside and have a drink and/or have a smoke.
But the city is proposing a fee increase of $50 a year for all types of beer garden licenses.
Many tavern owners said that extra fee is unfair, especially since several of them just implemented a beer garden within the last few years.
"I think it's extremely unfortunate they're looking it at in the first place," said The Sports Nut owner Chris Olsen.
His beer garden is barely three years old.
After the city's smoking ordinance took effect, Olsen bought a $100-a-year license to give his customers a place to smoke and drink at the same time.
But the city is looking to increase the fee by $50 dollars.
"I pay for nine months of the year just to pay my taxes, fees, licensing and everything else. So it's not just $50," Olsen said.
According to the ordinance, the city would increase Class A, B, and C beer garden licenses from $100 to $150.
Class D licenses would increase from $200 to $250.
A Class D license allows a beer garden to stay open until midnight, according to City Clerk Teri Lehrke.
But only one of the 28 beer gardens in La Crosse has a Class D license, she added.
"Our (city) costs since 1999, in some cases, have gone up considerably. And we're trying to balance the actual cost with some slight (fee) increases to deal with challenges that we have here in the city," said La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat.
He said he wants to address any issues connected with outdoor drinking before they happen, but fees for city resources keep going up.
With the exception to a few amendments and the creation of Class D licenses, the cost of a beer garden license hasn't increased since 1980, according to Lehrke.
But Olsen said he and most his colleagues have new beer gardens, and the extra fee may make business too tight.
"Some of the bar owners are gonna take a stance and say, 'No, I'm not getting a license,'" Olsen said.
The proposal is part of the city's budget process.
The Mayor will be meeting with the tavern owners and the La Crosse County Tavern League within the next couple of weeks to further discuss the fee.
Kabat said the ordinance will be voted on in October.
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