Sister Bay News Notes: Liquor License Awarded, Food Truck Ordinance Finalized

Northern Grill Awarded Reserve Liquor License

Northern Grill applied for and was awarded the reserve Class B liquor license that was previously held by Fred & Fuzzy’s bar and grill during the Sister Bay Board of Trustees’ April 18 meeting. 

Northern Grill has had an “above-quota” liquor license since the late 1990s by virtue of having more than 300 seats – the same type of license awarded to CHOP, LURE, Stabbur and Boathouse on the Bay. To maintain that license, a restaurant must maintain the availability of those 300 seats. Husby’s and the Sister Bay Bowl are the only businesses in the village that have the more flexible license that does not require a seating minimum.

Lisa and Ron MacDonald, owners of Northern Grill, originally applied for the license when it first became available in the late 1990s, but it was awarded to Fred and Fuzzy’s.

Lisa MacDonald said they sought the reserve license to have more flexibility with the restaurant and for resale value. A restaurant with a reserve license is more attractive to buyers because it doesn’t require that an owner operate a large-scale service to maintain a liquor license. 

Under state law, the village will have the option of awarding a second reserve license if its population rises by 500 people. Per the 2020 census, the village population was 1,184 – up from the 775 it had when the law was instituted in 1997. The 2022 population estimate for the village was 1,184, and the village population would need to reach 1,225 to get a second reserve license. 

The license requires a $10,000 initial issuance fee, plus a $600 annual village fee.

Bjorn Johnson, the attorney for Al Johnson’s restaurant, objected to the decision. He said Al Johnson’s tried to apply for the Fred & Fuzzy’s license in 2021 for the former Casperson’s property it owns. The village denied the request because there was no restaurant existing at the property to which to apply the license. 

“We were told that the village was interpreting this as an above-quota license and that when Fred & Fuzzy’s closed, it simply went away,” Johnson said. “This notion that it is suddenly available six months later is news to us.”

Johnson argued that notice should have been given to local businesses that the license was available so that everyone would have the chance to apply. 

“We have to process applications by the rules in effect at the time of the application,” said village administrator Julie Schmelzer. “There was no policy or process in place to make public notice before.”

The board instructed staff to draft a new policy for notice and approval of future reserve licenses.

Food Truck Ordinance Finalized

An ordinance that was a year in the making was finally approved by the village board to allow food trucks within the village under specific conditions. 

Food trucks are allowed on lots of at least 20,000 square feet, and they may be placed only on paved driveways, with a maximum density of one truck for every 4,500 square feet. Vendors are also required to have four paved parking spaces, on-site bathrooms (but not porta-johns) and a minimum of eight seats. In addition, the ordinance bans food trucks operating as part of a formula or chain business. 

Trustee Don Cox objected to several of the stipulations in the ordinance.

“If you’re doing this to allow food trucks, then you create a plan that doesn’t work and nobody wants to operate a food truck in your town, then it’s not a good plan,” he said.

Trustee and Plan Commission chair Denise Bhirdo said the commission was attempting to balance the desire to allow food trucks with the requirements it has for existing brick-and-mortar restaurants in the village. 

“If you have a brick-and-mortar in the village, there are all kinds of guidelines you have to follow,” Bhirdo said. “We tried to follow the ones that are most important.”

Several board members acknowledged that the ordinance will require future tweaking, but they called it a good first step.

“I’m supportive of how this is written today, but I caveat that by saying we’re learning, and we need to be willing to evolve,” said trustee Sarah White. “We have to try something.”

Beacon Project Approved

The board approved a plan for a 9,820-square-foot showroom for Beacon Marine between Wisconsin Building Supply and the Mobile One gas station on Highway 42 at the south end of the village. Owner Jeff Matson has been working on the plans for two years and hopes to have the showroom completed this fall. 

Village Proclaims Pride Month

The board approved a proclamation declaring Pride Month in the Village of Sister Bay. 

“The village board of trustees for the Village of Sister Bay, Wisconsin, a small waterfront community enriched by diversity, enhanced by a culture of acceptance and kindness, strengthened by respect and appreciation for all, and chosen for their welcoming spirit, on this 18th day of April 2023, hereby proclaims June 2023 as Open Door Pride Month.”

Though it’s only a proclamation, Cathy Grier of Open Door Pride said the recognition is valuable to the LGBTQIA+ community. 

“We know that when our elected officials acknowledge us, we are happier and healthier as a community,” Grier said. 

The village also agreed to fly the Pride flag for the month. 

Allison Werner asked how the village determines which flags it will fly on village poles. 

“For example, if someone requested we fly the Confederate flag, would we have to say yes to that?”

Bhirdo said they would not, and that the village adopted a policy for flags three years ago.

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