Last week was one for the ages at the Minocqua Brewing Company, but before I tell the story, I want to update you on our “phase 0” project to come up with the strategy on how to legally overturn the private school voucher system in Wisconsin that is bleeding our public schools dry.
Our legal team should be done with their analysis and I should be able to tell you what we’re going to do by mid-August, and since the balance of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court won’t officially lean progressive until August, we’re making great time in getting our ducks lined up in a row to file a thoroughly vetted lawsuit by September/Early October.
Now for the wild and amusing story that involves a “Dumpster Koozie,” a “Freedomster,” a song by the Beastie Boys, and an ill-fitting rainbow jumpsuit.
We found out last weekend that the Oneida County zoning committee scheduled a hearing to amend, suspend, or revoke our permit to do business.
It was a wildly heavy-handed and arguably illegal escalation of our three-year-old fight to create an outdoor space for our customers to drink beer.
In this last chapter, they accused us of two violations—"outdoor beer sales” and “not fencing in our dumpster.” Those violations were apparently worthy of shuttering our business, which is arguably one the most popular establishments in Minocqua.
This saga quickly became humorous because within a few hours, we crowdsourced many pictures of other bars doing absolutely nothing to keep their customers within any sort of organized drinking area, and over 10 examples of other businesses not enclosing their dumpsters. We even found a picture of an unenclosed dumpster at the Oneida County courthouse, where the County Zoning committee meets!
This was clearly a case of “selective enforcement,” which is a legal term that if proven, can be used to win lawsuits against government harassment.
But we REALLY don’t want to spend the $200-$400K that it will cost us to sue our county in federal court over the course of the next several years just to serve beer outside, and I’d much rather spend my time raising money to help Wisconsin rid itself of our parasitic private school voucher program, so we figured we’d try some good old-fashioned grass-roots organizing to show our County Board zoning committee how ridiculous they were acting.
Here's a timeline of what happened last week:
Monday –We announced a protest in front of Minocqua’s town hall for the following Saturday and published our entire county board’s public email addresses and phone numbers so that tourists from around the country could voice their anger. We also partnered with Moveon.org to create a petition that we could hand to the board during their hearing to shut us down next Wednesday (July 26, 1 pm, Rhinelander Courthouse). As of this writing there are over 1.3K signatures.
Tuesday – Our lawyer asked me to enclose our dumpster to appease the county zoning committee until the hearing, so I asked Ron, a man who came out of retirement to help at the tap room this summer, whom I’ve also dubbed the “Most Interesting Man in the World,” to enclose our dumpster. This is what he came up with in a matter of hours.
Wednesday – We called for an artist to come and paint the “Dumpster Koozie.” We also created a t-shirt to memorialize Ron’s creation of the 8th wonder of the world, and posted approximately 20 pictures of all the bars and restaurants around our county that either had unenclosed dumpsters or undefined drinking areas—the two violations that might get us shut down in a few days.
Thursday - Artist Season Polsin from New London, a few hours away, started beautifying the "Dumpster Koozie." Season relayed that the "Dumpster Koozie" was in danger of falling apart, so we issued a call for help over Facebook. Within minutes, contractor Brian Diamond from Plover, WI answered the call and voluntarily drove over two hours to shore up the “Dumpster Koozie.” Season continued painting and was almost finished at the end of the day.
Friday – Season finished her work of art and I gave a radio interview on WHBY, a station in Appleton. We then christened the Dumpster Koozie in a facebook live event, and changed its name to the “Freedomster.” During the ceremony, I gave a nod to the 1st grade teacher in Waukesha county that was recently fired by her alt-right school board for teaching an innocent song about rainbows. After drinking a bit too much beer during the Christening, I unwisely gave an interview to our local CBS affiliate.
Saturday – We protested to “End Minocqua’s War on Beer.” People made protest signs, someone brought a bullhorn, and I lead everyone while wearing an ill-fitting rainbow jumpsuit in a march to Mincoqua’s Town Hall. On the way, we sang the chorus of an old 80’s song by the Beastie Boys: “We gotta fight…for our right…to PAAARRRRTTTTAAAYYYY!.” I then gave a speech that enumerated all the ways the Town of Minocqua and the Oneida County zoning department has politically harassed our company over the last several years. I ended the speech by reminding everyone that the vote schedule to allow us to have an outdoor beer garden, which would have nullified all the violations they were accusing us of, was less than a week away from their hearing to shut us down. They obviously scheduled one hearing before the other in order to avoid having to vote on denying us a beer garden, which given the back story, would have given us ample evidence for a successful lawsuit against them.
So that’s the story.
It’s been a wild week.
If you’d like to join in on the action, please email and call our county board and tell them that what the zoning committee is doing is ridiculous, illegal, and self-defeating for a county that relies heavily on tourists for its economy.
Connor Showalter 715-966-3560 firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Kelly 715-369-3018 N (no public email)
Linnaea Newman 715-550-0622 email@example.com
Steven Schreier 715-360-1064 firstname.lastname@example.org
Russ Fisher 715-360-3998 email@example.com
Debbie Condado 715-360-3776 firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Briggs 715-550-0493 email@example.com
Greg Oettinger 715-369-2872 firstname.lastname@example.org
Diana Harris 715-367-2209 email@example.com
Jim Winkler 715-369-1868 firstname.lastname@example.org
Robb Jensen 920-602-0561 email@example.com
Anthony Rio 715-493-1902 firstname.lastname@example.org
Collette Sorgel 715-477-0001 email@example.com
Scott Holewinski 715-493-4647 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Roach 715-614-3140 email@example.com
Michael Timmons 715-892-2015 firstname.lastname@example.org
Billy Fried 715-892-1694 email@example.com
Tommy Ryden 715-614-6531 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Almekinder 715-892-0101 email@example.com
Chris Schultz 715-218-0726 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ted Cushing 715-892-0425 email@example.com
Also, please sign our Move On petition that we'll present to the zoning committee this Wednesday.
And, here's the long shot...if you happen to know Jon Stewart, John Oliver, or Rachel Maddow, please tell them about this story. I think they’d love to re-tell it to their audiences.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for sticking with the Minocqua Brewing Company. Together, we can make Northern Wisconsin more progressive...one beer, email, protest, and ill-fitting rainbow jumper at a time.
Owner, Minocqua Brewing Company
Founder, Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC