Wausau officials on July 12 debated for more than 90 minutes and took comments from a handful of residents and downtown business owners before enacting a daytime drinking ban at The 400 Block.
The proposal was first floated in May in response to a small group of problem drinkers who regularly loiter at the park, causing headaches for police and downtown business owners. On Tuesday, council members were given just two options: ban alcohol at the park altogether, except during special events; or limit drinking to after 4 pm. Romey Wagner and Lisa Rasmussen were the only two council members to support a total ban, and both spoke strongly in support of such a measure.
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All but two of the community members who spoke Tuesday urged the council to ditch the ban altogether, including former Mayor Jim Tipple. Downtown resident Kenzie Payne, who moved to Wausau from Idaho last year, says Wausau needs to do more to embrace diversity and creativity, while focusing on enforcing existing ordinances to solve the issue of problem drinkers who gather daily at the park.
“How about some plein air painting events with artists sipping wine, or old men playing chess,” Payne suggested, to hearty applause “This community should embrace diversity. This ban is not the answer.”
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Mark Craig, manager of Compass Properties, says a ban is counter to what the city is trying to build: a vibrant community attractive to millenials. And Tyler Vogt, owner of Malarkey’s Pub, offered to mount a security camera on his building to allow police access to video footage that could help them build a case against troublemakers.
The partial ban, which does not affect licensed special events, is temporary, until October 1, 2017, giving officials time to gauge its effectiveness. The ban goes into effect immediately.