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Selling beer at the fair

By Staff | Feb 21, 2011

Daryl Murray

Four years ago, the Faribault County Fair Board took a big step and voted to allow a beer garden at the county fair.

And, the decision wasn’t without much debate.

Some board members felt the fair represented a “family event” and it was no place for the selling of alcohol.

That was then.

Now, the fair board again is venturing into new territory.

On Feb. 8, the 12 members voted to operate the beer garden themselves this year, rather than allowing a private business.

Board president Daryl Murray says not everyone was in favor of making the switch, just a majority were.

He says the vote was held by “secret ballot,” rather than a “voice vote.”

“Nothing in this world is ever unanimous. Voting by ballot allows a person to express their opinion more freely,” he adds.

Talk of taking over the beer garden began when the board met after last year’s fair to see what improvements could be made.

There was a lot of research and fact-finding, says Murray, before a vote was taken on the issue.

He says board members looked at ways to improve the fair, and one of those was the beer garden.

“We just wanted to have more control on how it is run,” says Murray. “We also felt we needed to explore all revenues for the fair.”

While Murray won’t say how he voted, Milton Steele says he’s in favor of the change.

Steele, who has served on the board for four years, says the amount the fair received from last year’s beer garden was not enough when compared to how much revenue it generated.

“I think we should do it for one year and see how it turns out. Maybe we’ll find out some things we didn’t know,” Steele says.

John Borchert of Southern Jack’s in Blue Earth has operated the beer garden the past two years.

Borchert says the board’s decision caught him a little off guard because he was planning to talk with them soon about running the beer garden this year.

“I wish them a lot of luck. For six days it’s a lot of work,” says Borch-ert. “When you take all the expenses and time you have to spend out there, it wasn’t a big profit maker. I saw it as a way to get my name out there.”

Doug Nave of Double Play, who operated the beer garden the first two years, agrees with Borchert that making money is difficult.

“They’re going to have to put in a lot of time and work if they want to make a profit. I hope they can,” he says.

Board members won’t actually be manning the beer garden. There are plans to hire a manager and bartenders.

Murray says only 3.2 beer will be sold, no liquor or mixed drinks.

Also, no food will be sold.

“We didn’t think it was right to be in competition with the other food vendors. This should allow them to do better,” says Murray.

Depending on the crowds for the grandstand shows, that could determine how late the “beer garden” stays open.

Murray says in the past beer was still being sold after 1 a.m.

“We think that’s too late. There’s no reason to keep it open that late. We’ll have to look at it and see,” he says.

The board must receive approval from the Blue Earth City Council to sell the beer.

Murray says he plans to submit an application and the $60 fee soon. He says they also are in the process of buying liability insurance.