Surprise Hearing Scheduled Tomorrow (Monday) to Shut Down Our Taproom

Surprise Hearing Scheduled Tomorrow (Monday) to Shut Down Our Taproom

Last Thursday, one day after broadcasting that the Oneida County Zoning Committee was planning, yet again, to shut my business down by selectively enforcing mundane zoning ordinances, I received word that Oneida County's attorney filed a temporary restraining order seeking to shut us down IMMEDIATELY (tomorrow) before the county officially votes to do it themselves next Thursday.

They figured they'd turn the knife a little harder after I asked 185K of you to deluge them with emails that examined their parochial shortcomings.

So on this Father's Day, instead of driving back to Madison to finish building a beer garden at our new location down there, I have to stick around and appear at the Oneida County Courthouse tomorrow to once again save my company's neck.

This emergency motion gave us virtually no time to prepare a defense and ruined my and my lawyer's weekend, so we figured we'd ruin EVERYONE'S weekend by subpoenaing the entire county zoning committee and hauling EVERYONE into court alongside me. We're going to force them to testify under oath why they're wasting taxpayer's time and money in yet another obvious and ridiculous attempt to hurt my company.

As I ponder the many times I'll be in court or in zoning committee meetings this summer defending my business from a) illegal selective enforcement, b) Republican fishing expeditions into my company's finances, and c) insanely aggressive collection efforts from a defamation lawsuit run amok, I can't help but think of all the art we just put up in our beer garden.

Every piece of art outside and inside our taproom, which was listed last Summer on the National Register of Historic Places, was born from conflict. Every time I was harassed by my local government or felt like Wisconsin was losing our fight for democracy, I huddled with my graphic designer to create art that both inspired patriotism and ridiculed demagoguery.

As history has shown time and time again, the more that demagogues try to bury the truth, the more creative artists will become to shine a light on it.

Every piece of art in our taproom has a story worth telling, but I'd like to share just one of those stories with you today to illuminate how utterly barbaric it is to try to extinguish the beauty we've created.  It's the story behind the new vinyl sign called "Elizabeth's Beer Garden" that covers our front fence. 

The Story of Elizabeth's Beer Garden

My dream, from the moment I bought Minocqua's historic Texaco gas station and restored it from mushrooms, mold, and filth; was to build a beer garden to honor my late wife Elizabeth, who succumbed to cancer on December 17, 2018.

I fought hard to build this beer garden for years, and after suing Oneida County and the Town of Minocqua in federal court last fall, I finally won--or so I thought.

While conceptualizing the art that memorialized my late wife, my overarching goal was to show, through imagery and poetry, the concept of chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro translates to "light/dark," and I learned the Italian word while trying to master the art of classical singing (bel canto,) which involves balancing one's head voice (light) with chest voice (dark).

The concept of chiaroscuro, at least to me, encompasses many universal themes--good vs. evil, life vs. death, war vs. peace, etc.

In the art pictured above, I asked my graphic designer to create a vine of hops (used in making beer) that grew from dirt on the left side of Elizabeth's name to an abundance of hop flowers on the right. The goal was to remember her struggle with cancer (darkness), and how that struggle ultimately ended in a peace (lightness) that released her spirit and allowed it to bloom in Heaven (or in a dimension that I don't yet understand).

The only aspect of the top half of this mural with which Elizabeth might not agree is my use of hop flowers instead of grapevines. She loved a good French Bordeaux much more than beer, but I think she'd be ok with me taking a little artistic license given the context.

Below Elizabeth's name, we placed the first three stanzas of the poem "Invictus" along the dark side of the fence, which starts with a bed of rocks but slowly grows into green grass. Each of those stanzas begins with struggle (Winter/rocks), but ends with a sense of hope (Spring/grass). This hopeful struggle symbolizes the struggle my company has had to simply exist over the last few years as well as the struggle we've collectively had to hold onto our country.

The last stanza reads:

It matters not how strait the gate
How charged with 
punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul

Of course we had to put that stanza on the actual GATE of the beer garden.

To the right of Elizabeth's name is a line from the last scene of Bernstein's Operetta "Candide."

"We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good. 
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house and chop our wood
and make our garden grow."

If you've never heard/watched this last scene before, I suggest you click on this link and watch Bernstein himself conduct it. I've probably watched this clip over thirty times and it still brings tears to my eyes.

Like any marriage, my relationship with Elizabeth had it's ups and downs. Neither of us were always "pure, nor wise, nor good."  

Likewise, throughout my four-year odyssey fighting for Wisconsin's democracy by making progressive beer, starting a Super PAC, and  poking the bright red Republican bear "Up North," I haven't always been "pure, nor wise, nor good." my relationship with Elizabeth, "I've done the best I know."

I've tried, like so many other Americans after Trump became our national nightmare, to do what I could to pluck out the weeds of MAGA chaos/lies and get back to a place where democracy could bloom again.

And I pray that one day, I won't have to fight anymore and can just watch people enjoying my beer and listening to live music on a warm Summer's day in Wisconsin's Northwoods--enjoying the fruits of a garden that I worked very hard to build.

But that's not going to happen this summer. I've got to protect the memorial I built for my late wife from getting destroyed by the Old Boy's Network.

I've got to go back to the Oneida County courthouse tomorrow at 2pm; the same courthouse where the county shut me down last summer; the same courthouse where I lost Wisconsin's largest defamation lawsuit last October; and the same courthouse where Judge Leon Stenz allowed right-wing newspaper publisher Gregg Walker to freeze my assets a few weeks ago.

I think there's a country song somewhere that says "If I never see you again, it'll be too soon." That about sums up my relationship to this building and to the old boy's power structure that comprises it.

Tomorrow (June 17) at 2 pm and next Thursday (June 20) at 1 pm, I will fight again in that very same courthouse to save my company.

I've done this time and time again, and it has often been quite lonely sitting with my lawyer with very little support from those in my community.

I'm not sure if the vast majority of locals will ever open their eyes and realize that what is happening to my company is illegal. Their hatred for what I represent might simply be too blinding.

But if you're one of the few locals or tourists who do realize that what they're doing to me wrong, and you don't want to see the beauty that we've created at the Minocqua Brewing Company extinguished by a bunch of hateful old men who refuse to allow beauty into their own lives, then please come to the courthouse tomorrow and Thursday to show your support.

If you can't come in person but still want to do something, then please keep the emails to my county board coming.  Here are their addresses again:

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sticking with the Minocqua Brewing Company. Don't let these jerks destroy the beauty that we've created nor let them extinguish the light of truth that we've shined on this state since 2020.

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

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