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Appleton City Council votes to make it easier for bars to serve alcohol outdoors

Before Wednesday night, numerous regulations made serving alcohol on an outdoor patio a financial burden. But with a 12-2 vote, that burden has been lifted.

APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) - It was a busy night for the Appleton Common Council which voted on a number of hot topics, among them, changes to outdoor alcohol regulations.

Before Wednesday night, numerous regulations made serving alcohol on an outdoor patio a financial burden. But with a 12-2 vote, that burden has been lifted.

For Kyle Willencamp, owner of The Bar in Appleton, it takes two employees to serve alcohol on his sidewalk cafe. One to serve, and another, to sit and watch.

“To have to pay someone to just watch over potentially one to 8 or 10 customers, just doesn't make any sense,” he says.

It’s part of the Appleton municipal code, requiring a licensed bartender, watch over the outdoor area. Something Willencamp says is costing his business close to $5,000 in wasted money each year.

“They're not making tips because they're just basically sitting there watching over people," Willencamp says. "So obviously we have to pay them a decent amount to do that.”

Jennifer Stephany, Executive Director of Appleton Downtown Incorporated, says it’s hurting the downtown scene.

“Really for us, the main concern is the monitor and having that additional financial burden places on the business and that's really what's keeping some of the establishments from going forward with an outdoor licensed café,” Stephany says.

At Wednesday night’s common council meeting, ADI asked for a change, eliminating the requirement for a second employee, along with a requirement for a protective barrier. Council approved both changes, saying the barriers weren't doing much anyway.

"Plastic chain link, it's ugly when you drive down there. It's a "barrier", but I don't know what it's protecting," Alderman Patti Coenen remarked.

Officials with ADI hope the move opens outdoor possibilities for other establishments, while improving the atmosphere downtown.

These changes will go into effect in about 2 weeks. Stephany says she’s spoken with at least 2 other bars which now plan to offer sidewalk cafes. 

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