By Kellen Olshefski

SLN Staff

The City of Elkhorn Common Council voted unanimously in favor of approving temporary alcohol licenses for three upcoming events at the Walworth County Fairgrounds, but not without asking some questions first.

The three events licenses were approved March 21 include the demolition derby, May 20-21, Ribfest, July 15-17, and the rodeo, Aug. 19-20.

Mayor Brian Olson requested the items be broken out from the consent agenda Monday evening for some clarification as to why there are no events permits accompanying the alcohol license requests, like it would with other permitting processes.

City Clerk Cairie Virrueta said being that the events are not on city property and are not using city services, they are not required to obtain a special event permit. However, Virrueta said she has previously sent out a mailing to various organizations that would potentially do special events, noting it would be beneficial to let the city know, even if a special event permit was not required.

Virrueta said she consulted City of Elkhorn Police Chief Joel Christensen on the three events, who did not have a problem with the premises of them.

Alderman Hoss Rehberg asked why last year’s demolition derby was required to have a permit, but this year’s was not.

Virrueta said the event shouldn’t have been required to have one last year, despite what she had been taught when she took over as city clerk. However, if they needed any city services, such as the use of City of Elkhorn police officers, then they would be required to take out a permit.

Rehberg also noted with Ribfest being a new event offering the sale of alcohol, there’s a lot of unknowns and questioned whether it would require more patrol by the police department.

Christensen said Monday night with new events like this that come about, historically, the department reviews how it went afterwards.

“Were there any call or special needs,” he said. “Then we address it with the organizer, in this case, the fairgrounds, and say, next year, if you didn’t have your own security, I think you’re going to need to get security if you want to get a license for this event and here’s why.

“Or if we think, we were there this many times, you’re going to need one of us, or two of us, then we put those kind of restrictions on the event going forward.”

Christensen said the department typically goes into the situation with the understanding the organizers know what they need for resources better than the department sometimes.

“And hopefully that’s the case with someone who’s been historically responsible, like the fair,” he said.

City Administrator Sam Tapson said while the city is not looking to penalize anybody, it might not be a bad idea for the city to review it’s special event permitting process, revamping it to encompass all events that take place in the city boundaries, ensuring events operate in a manner that is safe and benefits the city. Having special event organizers submit plans, he said, would prevent legit questions from coming up last minute.

Tapson also said, a training on event and liquor laws could make for a good session for city staff and aldermen in the future.

“It would probably benefit all of us to have someone who is an ‘expert’ on all of this stuff, come in and give us an overview,” he said. “This takes years, literally, to get comfortable with.”


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