Beer will be served at the Wildcat Classic Youth Hockey season kickoff at the Waunakee Ice Pond next weekend.
The Waunakee Village Board approved a temporary Class “B” Retailers License application Monday for the organization to sell beer at the event after a discussion about alcohol consumption at events geared toward youth.
The village board had tabled action on the application at their Oct. 3 meeting in response to concerns raised about the example set by adults drinking at the youth tournament. Michelle McGrath, project coordinator for the Waunakee Community Cares Coalition, noted that Waunakee youths already are consuming alcohol.
The Waunakee Community Cares Coalition is centered around keeping Waunakee youth safe and healthy, emphasizing drug and alcohol prevention, she said. McGrath noted that her position was created last year and funded through a federal grant the coalition wrote for two years prior in response to high rates of alcohol consumption among middle and high school students. This year, a survey and focus groups revealed that youth drinking had increased, McGrath said.
“I really think that we need to collaborate and rethink how we might set different priorities for the community given the data we’ve seen come out of the high school,” McGrath said. “We all want our kids to be healthy and safe and resilient. And it’s going to take all of us to make really important decisions to do so.”
Board members had invited members of the Wildcat Youth Hockey Association to the Oct. 17 meeting.
Lauren Kramer, one of the Wildcat parents, explained that the event has been held annually and granted a temporary license since 2017. It has had no history of citations for drinking or disorderly conduct, and the sale of alcohol is permitted by the Ice Pond.
Kramer noted that she is not aware of such temporary licenses being denied for other events, such as the St. John’s Festival, WaunaFest or Wauktoberfest.
“To simply target the Wildcat Classic is not in line with the past decisions of this board who have previously approved our own license applications,” Kramer said. “This is starting to create a discriminatory feel against the Wildcats in which we are not being treated the same as other organizations.”
Other Wildcat members noted that the event is for the association’s families. The youth hockey organization serves the northern Dane County area, and the kick-off event for their season is a fundraiser, as well, where monies raised go toward scholarships for families unable to afford fees and equipment. They pointed out the event is not a tournament.
Alyssa Geiger, a Wildcat Youth Hockey Board member, told the board the area where alcohol is served would be roped off and ID’s would be checked. Four volunteers have agreed to work the entire day.
The comments seemed to reassure board members.
Trustee Phil Willems said when the license application was brought up at the last meeting, he had a “quick knee-jerk reaction.”
“I talked to people and decided they did a good job in the past, and I’m inclined to believe they’ll do a good job in the future,” Willems said.
Trustee Erin Moran, who is the Waunakee High School girls’ lacrosse coach, said she also is involved in an expensive sport and fundraising is necessary.
While fundraising is needed, Trustee Joe Zitzelsberger said he was still “not overly comfortable” with granting the license.
“I would encourage parents to drink responsibility and have a talk with their kids,” he said.
Trustee Nila Frye added she was concerned about setting a precedent for other youth sports.
“I’m not singling any group out,” Frye said. “When I saw this I was concerned because it was a youth group.”
Trustee Sam Kaufmann said his concerns about checking IDs had been addressed. He urged the group to consider including non-alcoholic beer for sale.
The board may consider exploring a new policy regarding temporary licenses to serve beer and wine.
The motion to grant the temporary license to the Wildcat Youth Hockey Association passed on a 5-1 vote, with Frye dissenting.