Jefferson Award winner Mike Brown says bars get a bad rap

Mike Brown kicks off the Tavern League meeting.  The focus: Where their fundraising efforts will go this month.

"The biggest argument we got is how much to give and who to give it to because there is so many charities. We like to mix it around La Crosse County because that’s who raises the money," said Brown.

The Tavern League is a group that helps bar owners navigate legal issues and concerns at both the state and federal level, but Brown says they do much more than that-raising millions for charity.

"Look at the posters. There’s always fundraisers going on just about every bar, every month. Raising money for some unfortunate family where some tragedy happened in their life. We always step up because we’re only as strong as the weakest link. Bars are really focused on helping the community," said Brown.

According to Brown, it’s also where people can be themselves.

"People don’t feel free to speak of that way in church but in a bar, they’re free to talk and that’s why you can talk to a lot of politicians and hear them say they really like the feedback they get in bars," said Brown.

Brown says while Tavern League members are concerned about the bottom line, their priority is the safety of their customers.

"We’ve went through the time to train our bartenders what to do if someone has had too much to drink. We’ve been so proactive here in La Crosse working with the police department and the mayor’s office and anybody that wants to work with us in a positive way for the community, we’re always at the table," said Brown.  

Brown spearheaded the Safe Ride Program in La Crosse County.  To date, they have provided 7,000 patrons with a safe ride home.

"How many of those people would have been on the road driving and could have hurt themselves or somebody else?  All you have to do is look at the statistics and it’s going in the right direction," said Brown.

Mike Brown credits his desire to serve to the value system instilled in him by his father at a very young age. 

"My dad always had a saying…when we went camping or hunting…or something like that…we always did a little police call, picking things up. He always said leave it a little nicer than you left it with. If you just did that for life in general I think the world would be a much better place," said Brown.

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