The Significance of 2425 and Beer Gardens:  A Governor's Sleight of Hand and an Ongoing Local Battle

The Significance of 2425 and Beer Gardens: A Governor's Sleight of Hand and an Ongoing Local Battle

Hi Friends,

As we go through another glorious summer week in a state where warm weather is fleeting, I’ll try to keep things short today.

First, a quick comment on Governor Evers’ line-item veto to extend public school aid by $325 per pupil in perpetuity (until the year 2425). I think this was a pretty clever move and commend him and his staff for figuring out how to throw a bone back to public education after signing a bill that expanded private school vouchers at a much higher rate than public school funding.

However, unless Evers’ gets a Democratic legislative majority in two years, which will be next to impossible even if we are able to end gerrymandering in the courts, this sneaky yet emotionally-satisfying sleight of hand will be rendered moot in the next budget, and state public education dollars will continue to be outpaced by private voucher funding.

That said, I have nothing new to report on our current “Phase 0” project that will determine the direction of how the Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC and our education partners will sue to end the private school voucher system in Wisconsin and how much money we’ll need for that lawsuit, because our lawyers have just started digging into the issues. Hopefully in the next week or two I'll have some more concrete updates.

While we wait on more details about the voucher school lawsuit, I’d like to update you on an ongoing local issue that is quite inconsequential in the larger scope of American and Wisconsin politics, but very near and dear to my business.

The Minocqua Brewing Company continues to be politically harassed by the Town of Minocqua after they voted once again to block us from creating a beer garden for the hundreds of tourists that visit us each day.

This issue is one of pure malevolence on the part of our town board. Over the last two years, they’ve awarded 174 parking exemptions to practically every local business that has asked for them, but has consistently rejected our request for the 6 exemptions needed to create enough space to build a beer garden.

Never mind that municipal parking requirements have been roundly criticized as bad public policy and an anachronism of a bygone “era of asphalt” that enlightened communities have shunned in favor of “walkable” downtowns, it is obvious that this town board doesn’t really care about parking.

No…because if they did, they would have accepted our first proposal to put their unnecessary yet “required” parking in an abandoned right-of-way (called the porkchop) that had been used by previous owners of our property for 30 years.

No, it’s perfectly clear that this was never about parking, but only about hurting the Minocqua Brewing Company.

Luckily, through the dogged persistence of our lawyers, we’ve forced a grudging acknowledgement among our county zoning commission that THEY ALONE have the jurisdiction to decide on zoning issues such as parking, NOT the unincorporated Town of Minocqua that has no zoning department.

We say grudgingly because for two years, when we asked the Oneida county attorney and zoning officials why the county always rubber-stamped the town’s votes on parking requirements when the COUNTY ALONE had this jurisdiction, we always got the same answer…“That’s just how it’s been done in the past.”

Well, it was also “past practice” in many parts of America to charge a poll tax before allowing people of color to vote, but that doesn’t mean it was legal!

This brings me to my point. The Oneida County zoning committee will be taking a vote on August 2 that will decide the fate of our beer garden, and we could use your help.

If you’ve visited our tap room in the past, or ever considered visiting it as a tourist, please email the following members of this zoning committee and ask them to do the right thing and award us the same parking exemptions that they’ve awarded most other business who’ve applied for them over the last two years.

Here are their email addresses:

I believe this zoning committee has just enough upstanding members in it to acknowledge the fairness in leaving my company alone and letting us build a beer garden, but it won’t be easy.

They’ve already delayed this vote twice, which has caused $2-$3K per day of lost beer sales. They don’t like us any more than the Minocqua town board given how progressively outspoken we are, but I think enough of them can be convinced that pettiness and harassment have no place in thoughtful municipal governance.

And while you write your helpful emails, we’ll continue to welcome new progressive tourists to this beautiful part of America call the Northwoods of Wisconsin. We also look forward to serving you beer in a building that will soon be listed on the National Register of Historic Places after receiving our state designation last May.

That’s right, our Tap Room, a preserved 1930’s Texaco gas station, will soon be the most historic public building in Minocqua in the eyes of the national board of architects that decide these things.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for indulging me in airing our little local grievances. I hope there’s enough universality in this unnecessary, ego-driven, small-town battle to make it worth your time.

Have a great week,

Kirk Bangstad

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

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