Minocqua Brewing Company files temporary restraining order against Oneida County

Tensions continue between Minocqua Brewing Company and the County Board
Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 11:31 PM CDT
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MINOCQUA, Wis. (WSAW) - A temporary restraining order was filed on August 1st by Kirk Bangstad and the Minocqua Brewing Company against Oneida County supervisors. According to a Minocqua Brewing Company Facebook post, Bangstad believes the restraining order could put the hearing to amend, suspend, or revoke his permit to operate, on hold. The hearing was initially scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

In that same Facebook post, Bangstad said his attorney filed the restraining order against the county in response to the strict rules being put into place for the hearing scheduled on Wednesday. Those rules include talking out of turn or off-topic. Bangstad believes they put those restrictions into place so that he doesn’t have the option to speak.

On July 26, a public hearing took place in which the County was to decide on Bangstad’s permit to operate. It got cut short, however, after the county claimed he was straying too far from the topic at hand, pushing it to August 2nd.

It’s a situation that has been going on for a couple of years now. Both sides, Oneida County and Kirk Bangstad, say the other has played a part in how much it’s escalated.

It all started back in April 2021. Bangstad bought what’s now known as the Minocqua Brewing Company. The business has become a popular destination for tourists because of its progressive, political beer. After moving into a new location, Bangstad needed a special permit to open. He applied for an administrative review permit, also called an ARP, months after he bought the building.

It took about 6 months for Bangstad’s ARP to be approved. During that time, Oneida County and the Town of Minocqua went back and forth about possible concerns. When the ARP was approved, a little more than a month before Memorial Day Weekend, it was with certain conditions. One of these conditions was parking.

“When the town said we were going to have to put parking there, it had already been a while. I had spent a lot of money on this property I needed it to be open that summer. We only make money three months out of the year. Especially given my politics the tourists are the only ones coming to my business,” said Bangstad during a public hearing on April 19, 2023.

Parking has been one of the main conditions causing the growing tension. The County required a minimum of 6 parking spaces, meaning Bangstad can’t build out the rest of his goal of a beer garden.

“So I have to have a conditional use permit to change that and ask to put a beer garden there,” said Bangstad.

Bangstad mentioned his beer garden plans in the ARP, but he needed a different permit, called a conditional use permit or CUP, to have outdoor sales and to build a beer garden. He acknowledged that he knew these terms and said he accepted them under duress.

“I admit, that was my naivety. I just bought a piece of land that never had parking on it,” said Bangstad at the same April meeting.

In his ARP, it says he can appeal those conditions.

“An appeal was never filed,” said Karl Jennrich, Head of the Oneida County Planning and Zoning Department.

Bangstad first submitted his CUP application in May of 2023 to build a beer garden. In the application, he proposed using a plot of land right in front of his business, even though he knows it isn’t his. The plot of land belongs to the Town of Minocqua. In a hearing on April 19th, 2023, the County voted against Bangstad’s application.

“You certainly can’t grant a CUP permit that allows someone to use someone else’s property,” said someone from the County during the meeting. In the audio, it’s clear that people from the County Planning and Zoning Committee are talking, but NewsChannel can’t verify who.

In the hearing, they also discussed parking exemptions that were waived for other businesses in Minocqua and Woodruff. The county waived parking for a brewery very similar to Bangstad’s.

“But whatever parking could be accommodated there, we wanted to make sure it was provided. As Bill said, parking is at a premium on this island,” said someone from the County’s Planning and Zoning Committee during the meeting. During the meeting, one of the committee members recommended to Bangstad that he could possibly add a rooftop beer garden, which would help him keep the parking spaces he needs.

The County also argues that while parking wasn’t required at the business before it was a brewery, a retail business attracts more people, and the more need to provide whatever parking the business can.

Before Bangstad submitted his first CUP, he had already gotten three citations for violating his ARP. Another reason the County denied his CUP is because of conditions that weren’t met on the ARP. These citations were for having tables and chairs outside. However, the ARP only approved indoor use, not outdoor use.

“The town and county don’t want me to succeed in this town,” said Bangstad. He also claims that almost every other establishment in Minocqua has a place for customers to be able to drink outside, except Minocqua Brewing Company.

Bangstad claims the town of Minocqua doesn’t have the jurisdiction to enforce parking. He’s right in that the town can’t enforce this, but Oneida County can. They get recommendations from the town and decide what they want to do with them. A couple of weeks after his first CUP was denied, he applied for a second one. This one was delayed twice, and that decision was scheduled for Wednesday, August 2nd.

NewsChannel 7 reached out to Oneida County, but they declined to comment ahead of the upcoming hearing. People have shared opinions that the County could have been more lenient, and Bangstad agrees with this because the rules weren’t enforced the same way as other businesses.

Bangstad’s ARP is also being called into question because of other violations, such as having uncovered dumpsters and having outdoor sales and activities. In his ARP it says his dumpsters must be screened from view. Also, there are no outdoor sales, displays, storage, or activities of any type allowed.