We're Trying THAT in a Small Town

We're Trying THAT in a Small Town

Hi Friends,

It's been another wild and woolly week here at the Minocqua Brewing Company.

As I try to process it all on this Sunday morning, I'm looking at the many pictures of people who have visited to show their support of our ongoing battle against our town and county to keep our tap room open, and am uplifted.

I know what we're doing is right, and what we're doing locally is challenging the entrenched power structure of the "old boys network" that not only abhors progressive values, but has systematically voted to hurt our lakes, streams, and glorious public forests.

At the statewide level, we're challenging the entrenched powers of an illegally gerrymandered Republican legislature that is hellbent on destroying our public school system through diabolical private school vouchers.

Here's an update on our statewide effort, because I refuse to let these local battles against my company get in the way of something much more important--restoring our public school system to once again become Wisconsin's "pride and joy."

Without disclosing too much, our lawyers are telling me that they're scouring Wisconsin Supreme Court cases over the last several decades to help them create a very narrow case to defeat private school vouchers. Creating a narrow case means that we won't have to collect mountains of evidence to win, which will save a lot of time and money. We don't want this case to drag on more than two years because we can't guarantee we'll have a majority of honest judges two years from now.  And, of course, since we'll be funding this thing by asking the ~80K of you who read this weekly email to donate, we have to figure out ways to do this economically.

So that's the update on the statewide lawsuit, here's the update on Minocqua's battle to shut down our tap room.

Last Friday, the Oneida County Zoning Committee doubled down again, like hard-headed angry men are prone to do when their power is threatened.

Here are a few screenshots of the public notice to re-schedule the meeting to shut us down, and an email to our lawyer that laid out a three-step process to forcefully remove me from the meeting if they don't like what I have to say.

First, they are no longer allowing Zoom participation in what appears like an attempt to limit transparency.

Why? Because our supporters overwhelmed their zoom capacity of 100 participants at the last meeting and witnessed how they cut me off within minutes of reading my prepared speech. That was a bad look for them, so they probably don't want that to happen again. They also probably hated that one of our supporters posted the video on youtube and that link has been viewed thousands of times.  Note, the complete breakdown of due process starts about 1 hour 26 minutes into the meeting.

Second, they changed the format of the meeting so that my lawyer and I can only answer questions from the committee if asked. I can only surmise that this means I will not be allowed to provide context of how my permit to do business was created in a complete breakdown of due process, and why I believes this "created-to-shut-me-down" permit means all the violations they've created against my company aren't valid.

Finally, we received an email from Oneida County Attorney Mike Fugle laying out a 3-step process whereby if the committee deems that what I'm saying is "off-topic," it can stop me from talking, and if they determine that they don't like what I'm saying after a 2nd warning,  they can physically remove me from the room.

Think about that.

The committee can decide what they think is "on or off topic," and they can unilaterally decide that my defense of being shut down requires me to be physically removed from a meeting.

All of this is quite alarming, and I believe it has to be illegal in some way.

I'll be chatting with my lawyers tomorrow about ways to challenge these heavy-handed rules that were seemingly amended under the cover of darkness.

But what I CAN do today without legal guidance is ask anyone reading this email who might happen to be in Northern Wisconsin next week to come join me and protest this hearing to shut down my business.

Here's the schedule for the protest on August 2.

  • 11 am--Please come to the Minocqua Brewing Company to draw protest signs and organize for the protest.
  • 11:45--Drive 5 minutes to the Woodruff Town Hall, 1418 1st Avenue
  • 12:00--Join me an hour before the hearing to protest all that is wrong with this meeting. I'll re-iterate the many aspects of why this meeting seems like a violation of due process, and I'll read my prepared statement that I probably won't be allowed to read at the meeting. I'll then hand out 3 minute snippets of that speech to volunteers who are willing to read it for me during the public comment portion of the meeting.
  • 1 pm--Go to meeting and sign up to give up to a 3 minute statement.  Also, use your phones to take video of this meeting so that even without a zoom recording, we can broadcast what happens to a large audience.

In the meantime, I'll be attempting to reach out to statewide officials to try to get some help and find some cooler heads to de-escalate this situation. If you're reading this and are one of those statewide officials, please contact me.

At the end of the day, the Minocqua Brewing Company is simply fighting for its right to have an outdoor space to serve its customers--like almost every other bar, restaurant, and taproom in Wisconsin is allowed to have.

The arguments against us having this simple thing are the flimsiest I've ever heard and reek of political harassment. Unfortunately, after receiving over 8K emails in support of our business and a petition with over 5K signatures telling them to stop the harassment (cumulatively about 1/3 of the population of the entire county), our county zoning committee hasn't budged a bit.

It appears that reason and logic won't stop these guys from voting to shut down a thriving business in a fit of personal and political pique.

Thanks for reading this update on our fight to fix Wisconsin's public schools and our local fight to keep our tap room open.

I feel like I was raised to respect my elders and respect the institutions of government, and for most of my life I have.

But I've also read the history of "Fighting Bob La Follette," and I've reconciled with the fact that Wisconsin wouldn't have been the most honest state in the union decades ago without fighting hard to get there. 

I've determined now is the time to fight, and if that means rocking the boat a little bit, I'm ok with it.

Yes, as hard as is it for those intolerant souls who have embraced the hateful symbolism used in the song "Try That in a Small Town," we're going to indeed try THAT, and eventually we are going to win because we are on the right side of history.

Thanks for sticking with the Minocqua Brewing Company.  Together, let's bring due process back to rural municipal government and bring your tax dollars back to public schools, one beer at a time.

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

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