GREEN BAY - If you're looking for a night out at a national chain restaurant, look no further than Oneida Street in Ashwaubenon. The area around Bay Park Square Mall is lined with restaurants, making the village's neighbor to the north a bit jealous.
"You were looking for an entertainment district kind of like Oneida Street," Bay Family Restaurant owner Dan Burich said of the hopes for Military Avenue.
But there was a problem. For more than 100 years, most of the west side of Green Bay was off limits to places that served alcohol, including restaurants. It was part of an agreement that dated back to 1895, when Fort Howard merged with the city.
So in 2005, Mayor Jim Schmitt spear-headed an effort to get rid of the century-old ban with a referendum.
"We don't want saloons. We don't want taverns," Schmitt said back in 2005. "We want establishments that are going to be quality, places you can take your family, places you can take your parents, hotels that are going to be upscale."
So where are things seven years after the referendum passed and the ban was lifted? How many new, national chain restaurants have come the west side? None. Upscale hotels? Zero.
When asked what he would tell people who ask why there hasn't been more development on the west side, Schmitt replied, "Look, people need to appreciate the last seven, eight years. It's been difficult in this country. We're doing okay here in Green Bay but there just hasn't been a lot of development in the restaurant business."
Today, only six businesses on the west side have a license to serve alcohol. All of them were already in business before the referendum.
There is one new restaurant under construction on the west side. It's on Dousman St. near Broadway. While it is expected to sell alcohol the city clerk's office says the owners don't have a liquor license yet.
One of the first businesses to serve alcohol on Military Avenue was the Bay Family Restaurant.
When asked if the new liquor law has had an impact, Burich replied, "Not a huge impact."
Burich says he's a bit frustrated with the lack of development but understands these things take time, especially with the bad economy and the reconstruction of Military Avenue. He's confident development will come.
"Maybe we're never going to have a big hotel with a banquet facility but there are still a lot of great chains, regional and national chains that just did not look at this area of west Green Bay because of the way our law was set up and that's all we were trying to do was open that up."
But he believes someday, the development will come. The question is when.
"We're looking in the long term," said Bryan Boettcher, president of the Military Avenue Business Association. "It will probably greatly aid development on Military Avenue."
How long is long term?
"There was a corridor study done a few years ago and it estimated that five years is the shortest time frame and in a lot of cases up to 20 for a lot of things to happen," Boettcher said.
Schmitt says lifting the liquor ban wasn't meant to turn things around immediately.
"Look, because it hasn't happened immediately, we're okay with that," Schmitt said. "I think the overall plan is to have some hospitality businesses on Military that serve food, entertainment and can have a liquor license as well."
But for now, the new liquor law has not brought any new development to Military Avenue. In fact, that new restaurant under construction on Dousman, the one the mayor says would not have come to the west side if the liquor ban was still in place, is two miles away from Military Avenue.
After almost 80 years, a piece of naval history is on its way home. A model of the Japanese luxury liner Hikawa Maru is being packed up in Manitowoc and returned to Japan.
Visitors to Green Bay's Neville Public Museum will soon see hours slashed. The county-owned attraction is cutting access starting the first of the year.
An 11-foot-long model of the Japanese passenger liner Hikawa Maru is being sent back to Japan after 34 years at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc.
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For the second year in a row, St. Norbert College could house overflow of homeless people from the St. John the Evangelist shelter in Green Bay.
A memorial fund has been created for a Grand Chute firefighter killed in a weekend car crash.