Chaos Ensued as County Zoning Committee Tried to Shut us Down

Chaos Ensued as County Zoning Committee Tried to Shut us Down

Hi Folks,

I apologize for filling up your inboxes this week, but some extraordinary things are happening to the Minocqua Brewing Company in Northern Wisconsin that are making statewide news.

Yesterday's hearing by the Oneida County planning and zoning committee to shut down the Minocqua Brewing Company was quite something.

The meeting was deeply flawed from the start.

The county chairman and chairman of the zoning committee, Scott Holewinski, didn't show up. Holewinski is the most important county official and he scheduled one of the most politically-charged zoning meetings in recent history during his vacation.

And what's more, Mike Roach, another member of the 5 member committee, left within 5 minutes of our item coming up on the agenda. Holewinski apparently knew that was going to happen so he appointed another county board member, Billy Fried, to sit in so they could have a quorum to shut us down.

Think about this.

2 out of the 5 members of this committee that called a public hearing to shut us down didn't show up, meaning they really didn't care to "hear" what the public had to say, and obviously knew how they were going to vote ahead of time.

Moreover, we've heard that all the members of the county board received around 400 emails from our supporters, and we sent them the results of a petition with ~5K signatures in support of us.

So after having received this gargantuan amount of support for our business, they moved forward with a meeting to shut us down with 2 out of the 5 members absent.

This shows a complete disrespect and abandonment of the democratic process. Why have public hearings if you don't care what the public has to say?

The next part of this story gets wilder.

The process for our section of the meeting was that Karl Jennrich, the head county zoning official, was supposed to present all of our purported violations to the committee, then our side was allowed to speak in defense of ourselves, then members of the public were allowed to speak for 3 minutes.

Note, in no part of the agenda did the county say we had a limited time to defend ourselves. The public had 3 minutes to give a statement, but there was no time limit for our defense.

I estimate that Karl Jennrich spent 45 minutes to an hour laying out all the violations his staff had noted over the last two years. Probably 95% of these violations were the same--people drinking beer on our concrete stoop, which we've written at length is a very gray area because our state/fed brewery permit allows us to serve our beer "on-premise." Some of the other "violations" were absolutely bonkers, like "noticed a white chair outside of building which indicated outdoor activity."

So everyone in the room had to sit and listen to Karl read off the same type of violation for almost an hour. There was no reason to do that. That same information could have been relayed at the hearing in 5 minutes.

Our lawyer then gave a wonderfully calm speech that took us out of the weeds of these violations and lifted us back into the realm of logic...A popular business just wants to be treated fairly, our goals of having a beer garden are simple, and a reset of our relationship to take the temperature down could do wonders for the tourism economy.

I then started to read a prepared speech. Within a minute, Michael Timmons, the acting chair of the committee, cut me off, saying I wasn't sticking to the topic of the meeting. You can click on that video here, and my speech starts around 1 hour, 26 minutes.

I told Timmons that I needed to lay out these historic facts in order to defend my company from the hour-long litany of violations it had been accused of. I kept talking for another few minutes, and then was cut off again, and told I would no longer be allowed to talk.

It was quite something to be told you couldn't finish a prepared statement in defense of your livelihood to a government body that was planning to vote to shut your business down.

So I refused to stop speaking, and was told I was going to be physically removed if I didn't stop.

Someone probably thought that might look bad in front of the local CBS, NBC, and ABC affiliates all filming, so instead of physically removing me, Timmons abruptly said the meeting was over and they all just walked out of the room.

Which left me with a room full of reporters and supporters to talk about what the heck had just happened.

At the end of the day, the Oneida County Zoning department once again showed us their true colors yesterday.

They don't care about due process, they don't care about public input, they don't care about what's best for the voters in their county or its tourism economy.

They care about their own power, and if that power is threatened, they will double down to stomp on whomever threatens that power.

This County Board is showing all the signs of being infected by the cult of personality that has befallen the entire national Republican Party. The "Party of Trump" and its authoritarianism roots must demolish all of our democratic institutions in order to stay in power, because everything they do hurts the common good and enriches a few....and people are starting to realize that and are voting accordingly.

That's our side of the story from yesterday. The news stations can explain 2 minutes of what happened, but you just can't do this story justice in 2 minutes.

We're just gonna keep selling beer. And if you want to support us and aren't in Minocqua, go to our website and find out where our beer is sold at your nearest grocery store, or buy some progressive wine, coffee, or merchandise from our online store

Thanks for sticking with us.

Kirk Bangstad
Owner, Minocqua Brewing Company
Founder, Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC

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