New Ordinance Requires All New Business Names to Include “Rivers”, “Coulee” or “Driftless”

LA CROSSE, WIS — After a marathon session Friday, the La Crosse City Council voted that new businesses formed within city limits must contain the following phrases or combination of phrases:

  • Driftless
  • Three (or Seven) Rivers
  • Riverside
  • Coulee or Coulee Region

The new ordinance was met with surprisingly little push back. 

“We were going to do that anyway,” said Punsy Minesweeper, new owner of 3 Driftless Rivers’ Coulee Cooperative. “This is how people know if a business is located in this part of the state.”

For others like Marge Olufsen, owner of 7 Rivers Chiropractic at Riverside, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. 

“Coming up with something clever and unique is a lot of work,” Olufsen said. “This new ordinance made naming my business really simple!”

The ordinance does leave room to use variations of the approved phrases, so long as they can be directly correlated to said phrases. Tony Nelson’s new restaurant, Cafe Non-Drifticus, has seen an immediate flood of new patrons and an immediate flood of no legal challenges from a popular Viroqua establishment. 

“I’m just pleased as punch,” said Nelson, “At first I was like…How can I call my restaurant ‘Driftless Cafe’ without actually calling it ‘Driftless Cafe’? Then I watched a roadrunner cartoon where they give the scientific names of the main characters and it just hit me.”

The new requirements have not been without their disagreements. Dr. Agnes Christianson of Three Rivers Dental and Dr. Traci Wilhelmson of Three Rivers Orthodontics both filed on the same day. Concerns were raised that customers would confuse the two too easily, which triggered a compromise clause of the new ordinance that spins a wheel of new phrase combinations to add and differentiate one of the businesses’ names.

“I figured, as long as folks know I’m an Orthodontist and that I’m located in a region with rivers, I’m happy with whatever,” said Dr. Wilhelmson, whose new dental office, Three to Seven Rivers Worth of Driftless Orthodontics of the Coulee Region, is now open for business on the La Crosse’s North side.

Onalaska’s City Council has expressed interest in adopting similar measures, with slightly different rules. 

“We are considering financial incentives for businesses to change their names to fall within the new guidelines if the measure passes,” said Neal Magnuson of the Onalaska City Council. “The draft we are currently working on would also mandate that in addition to La Crosse’s requirements, the name ‘Onalaska’ be present in every new business moniker. We wouldn’t want to be confused with any businesses in La Crosse.”

A city-wide forum is planned for next Thursday at the newly opened, “Riverside Brewhouse and Eatery of Onalaska and the Driftless Region, But Mainly Onalaska”. Members of the public are invited to attend.

Reporter Les Driftman and La Crosse Times Staff contributed to this article.