I’m itching to tell you about the conversations I’ve been having with Wisconsin public education advocates about potential lawsuits we can bring to a newly-progressive Supreme Court, including the following…
- Getting rid of our school voucher system that siphons millions of dollars away from publics schools to for-profit or religious schools, effectively forcing taxpayers to fund two separate systems—one of which is highly unregulated and often corrupt.
- Forcing the Republican legislature to update old school funding formulas that currently create vast inequalities between districts.
- Overturning ACT 10, Scott Walker’s bait and switch legislation that stripped teachers and other state workers of their ability to collectively bargain and caused a mass exodus of great teachers/public employees from Wisconsin.
But…I can’t talk about this stuff quite yet because we’re not ready yet. As impatient as I am to start fundraising to build a lawsuit, these important steps involving kids and education require coalition-building to get off the ground, and that's gonna take a little more time.
I did want to use this post today to update you on a matter extremely close to my heart--the Minocqua Brewing Company's ongoing struggle to build a beer garden next to our taproom in Minocqua, Wisconsin.
I know this is a hyper-local issue that might not interest all of you, but I promise there’s a universal “moral to the story” at the end:)
A month ago, I wrote on this very same platform that I would be giving up my fight with the Town of Minocqua to build a beer garden on my property, and instead build the parking lot they forced upon me. That 2-year-long fight was extremely frustrating and honestly made me a little crazy (like almost understanding the mindset of the dude who built the killdozer). But most importantly, it took way too much of my time given that the tap room was a small part of our entire business.
Since I wrote that I was waving the white flag, I went to a county zoning committee meeting where the zoning staff had created an analysis of all the parking exemptions that had been provided by the Town of Minocqua and the neighboring Town of Woodruff since 2020. I included a picture of that analysis at the top of this post, but here are the highlights:
The Town of Minocqua …
- Gave a total of 174 parking exemptions since 2020, but refused to give us 6.
- Gave a bar, a coffee shop, and a clothing boutique, all within 4 blocks of the Minocqua Brewing Company, full parking waivers (zero spots required) but forced us to install 6 parking spots.
The Town of Woodruff (directly north of Minocqua)…
- Gave Rocky Reef Brewery, the exact same type of business as ours, a full parking waiver (zero spots required) and waived 33 required spots for them, bringing the total parking waivers given by Minocqua and Woodruff over a 2.5 year period a WHOPPING 207!
That analysis was simply too much for me to accept, because it showed precisely how my business was being treated unfairly by the Town of Minocqua, who seemingly has no problem giving out parking waivers to most any business not named "Minocqua Brewing Company."
Now this is where the story gets a LOT BETTER.
I went into that county zoning meeting (note it was the county not the town) hat in hand, not expecting much, but determined to control my temper and attempt to use reason instead of anger or ridicule to get through to these men (there are only men on the county zoning committee).
An lo and behold, it kind-of worked. They rejected my proposal on a technicality, but suggested that I go back to the drawing board and give them a new proposal that they could accept.
The technicality was that I had attempted to put the town’s required parking in an abandoned right-of-way (we call it the pork chop) that was technically owned by the town but an obvious compromise to build both parking and a beer garden. The county, while they didn’t understand why the town wouldn’t agree to put parking in this obvious spot that wouldn’t be used for any other purpose, agreed they couldn’t force the town to put parking there if it didn’t want to.
So they told me to come back to them with a plan that didn’t involve the use of town property, so that's exactly what we plan to do. Here is the first draft of our plan where we ask the COUNTY, not the TOWN, to give us a full parking waiver (zero public parking), just like they've given to four other businesses, including a brewery exactly like ours, within the last 2.5 years.
I have a feeling that armed with the analysis that the Town of Minocqua provided 174 parking exemptions over the last two years but continues to arbitrarily force us to build 6, the Oneida County zoning committee, which has ultimate jurisdiction on parking because Minocqua is unincorporated and relies on the county for zoning and zoning enforcement, now fully understands that the town has purposefully tried to hurt us, and that its own “minimum parking requirements” are completely arbitrary and thus shouldn’t be enforced.
So what’s the moral of this story?
For me, it was a cliché that my mother told me long ago. “You can catch more flies with honey.”
I feel, at least at the county level, that the men at that meeting, mostly conservative, softened when I used reason with them, and seemingly wanted to help solve a problem that was clearly ridiculous and eminently solvable. One even said, after excoriating me for my previous antics of raising hell on Facebook, “I can’t vote to deny a man a right to his own property.”
This meeting gave me hope—not just for Oneida County, but for Wisconsin and America. This is what government SHOULD be all about. Hashing it out in person, not on Facebook--being kind, considerate, and respectful--and figuring out how to treat everyone FAIRLY given the laws of the land.
Oh how Wisconsin and America would thrive if our elected officials simply did those few things and left their politics at the door.
How functional could Wisconsin be if Republican leader Robin Vos ignored the special interests that currently own him and his party, and instead sat down with Governor Evers to compromise?
How functional could America be if Speaker Kevin McCarthy ignored Trump and his acolytes in the coo-coo caucus like Marjorie Taylor Greene, and simply hashed out compromises so America could move forward on the important stuff—like healthcare, education, infrastructure, etc. and STOPPED FOCUSING on the ridiculous stuff-- like banning books, arming teachers, cancelling Bud Light, and shaming trans athletes?
Obviously, these are questions that have remained unanswered since the beginnings of representative democracy, but I refuse to give up hope that seemingly intransigent men can be moved by kindness, sincerity, and logic…or at the very least be REMOVED by voters that realize that they're not representing their constituencies honestly.
And with that, I wish you a happy and uncynical week.
Come visit us at our Tap Room this Friday, May 12, for our summer grand opening. Then come back the following Friday, May 19th from 5-7pm, for the official release party of our new beer celebrating Wisconsin's new progressive Supreme Court: “Lady Justice, a Very Wise Weisse.”
I'll be there in person, and we can raise a glass together to celebrate compromise, civil discourse, and a Wisconsin where at least 2 out of the 3 branches of government want what's best for its citizens.
Thanks for reading and sticking with us.
Owner, Minocqua Brewing Company
Founder, Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC