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Wells residents want to keep bar

By Staff | Sep 1, 2014

Bartender Amanda Harris, left, visits with Wells Municipal Bar customers Dave Eilertsen, of Janesville, and Jaimie Terhark, of Wells, last Wednesday evening. The bar was full of customers, most of whom were not very happy about the Wells City Council’s decision to close the bar – and keep just the off-sale liquor store in operation. The last night for the bar to be open was Saturday, Aug. 30.

The last day was set, but residents weren’t ready to see it close.

The Wells City Council announced at their June meeting that the on-sale/bar portion of the municipal liquor store would be closing its doors on Aug. 30.

But, last Monday, the council chamber was packed with individuals who weren’t so quick to let the city call it quits.

Gerald Niehbur was the first of several residents to stand up and address the council on the issue and even presented a petition against the closing.

“I was very disappointed when I heard what the council was doing,” he said. “I have a petition here with more than 170 names.”

Niehbur is a member of the Wells Lions Club which has operated pull tab charitable gambling in the municipal liquor store.

“You cut out the heart of the Lions Club here,”?he added. “Our funding is over with this (the liquor store) ending.”

Other residents in attendance voiced their opinions about the situation, questioning the city’s future plans for the building.

It was said that the off-sale/liquor store portion of the building could be expanded to take up the bar side to increase the inventory.

Some individuals questioned how the city would have the money to expand the liquor store but not keep the bar side open.

Others wondered if adding inventory would actually bring in more money than the on-sale portion of the business did.

Their concerns did not go unacknowledged. The council members were able to address each comment brought to their attention, and also stated they were just as sad to see it close.

“We’ve been talking about this for three years,”?council member Anne Marie Schuster said. “It was a hard decision for all of us, but we can’t continue to allow that operation to lose money.”

At the first hearing the city held on this issue, many individuals stated they would not mind if the municipal bar closed, according to city administrator Robin?Leslie. She adds that by closing the bar portion, the other bars in town will get their business.

“The city doesn’t have to be in the bar business, but the other bars in town do,” Leslie said.

Also earlier this year, it was proposed that the bar be kept open until the end of the year; however, the committee decided that its losing money and has been for awhile and should therefore be closed.

“And, if we kept the bar open, we’d be spending tens-of-thousands of dollars on bar stools, coolers, things like that,”?Leslie added.

According to Schuster, the council knows the off sale has been and continues to make money for the city. The council hopes to optimize revenue by eventually expanding that portion of the business and adding to their inventory.

And, while both the public and the council are sad to see the bar portion of the municipal liquor store close its doors, the council can’t say they did not give it a try.

“Scott Berg has worked so hard to make this work, he tried adding things customers liked and getting rid of things customers found displeasing,” council member Ashley Seedorf said. “But, we just don’t know what else to try anymore.”

The council still hasn’t decided what will be done with the other half of the building, but they do know the bar has officially closed as of Aug. 30.