The Final Indignity

Click for Larger ImageTwenty years of live music at the Scott Street Pub did not end in a blaze of guitars and drums, but rather in a blue bureaucratic haze.

Before the headline band of the night, and the final act at the pub ever, could take the stage, the Pub was already closed. City police arrived in force at about 12:15 to inform Tom Bergs that his liquor license had exprired at midnight and the being in violation of the law, they were clearing the out the place and shutting down the Pub. In a bit of quick improvisation, the Pollack Inn on 3rd Street was called and asked if the finale of the Pub could be held there.

The final indignity of the Scott Street Pub is that their farewell performance had to be held in another venue. Hey thanks for 20 years of live music, Tom. One of the few positive things to come out of the incident was that there were no problems during the shutdown. A few angry words were directed at the police, but Tom Bergs quickly took the stage, and emphasized that the Pub had always been a peaceful place, and that the police were just doing their job. Within minutes the rock ‘n roll crowd of the Pub had filed quietly into the darkened streets of downtown.

What I don’t know at this point is who knew what when. Give the number of officers that showed up, the shutdown of the pub was obviously anticipated by someone at the City. It was well known that the last day of business of the Pub was June 30th, and I would suppose that the liquor license expired with the business as it were. In the bar business it would be somewhat understandable that the owners don’t think of their “business day” as ending at midnight. After all the Corpse Show Creeps were advertised as playing “June 30” even though they would not take the stage until after midnight.

It seems to me that someone from the City could have reminded folks that the day ends at midnight and that limit would be enforced. Tom and the Pub have run alcohol free shows before, and perhaps an 11:30 pm “Last Call” could have allowed the show to go on.

If the City was operating in “gotcha” mode, as it appeared they were, then Wausau has lost several thousand points on the “coolness” scale. More than 50 years after it appeared on the scene the City Fathers still think rock ‘n roll is some kind of plague? How backward is that?

The crowd at the Pub was of all ages on the last night. Twenty something “punks” mingled with people who looked old enough to be my parents. Along with the mohawks there was plenty of gray hair. The crowd was generally very well behaved, especially when the Pub was being shut down.

It is a shame that a place with such a rich tradition had to meet such an inglorious end.

Eds Note: The picture of Tom Bergs taking the stage to talk to the crowd was taken at 12:18 am. I have a picture of the band that was playing previous to that which I took at 12:11 am. I have many more pictures of the final night of the Pub which I hope to get uploaded today sometime. I had taken video of the proceedings as well, but so far the disc seems to be unreadable, so it may never see the light of day.

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18 responses to “The Final Indignity

  1. This event does not surprise me. What does surprise me is that nobody seemed to anticipate it.
    I guess one might logically assume that if there was any concern in the city government regarding the expiration at midnight they would have taken it to the source and made sure that the festivities themselves were unaffected. There are many solutions, an 11:30 last call or worst case – close the Pub at midnight but without such a heavy hand.
    That way everybody could have had their good time and leave with good memories.
    Unless, of course, somebody’s good time consists of sneaking up on a poignant celebration of the demise of a local institution.
    I guess the thing that bums me out the most is that clearly somebody (or somebodies) have it in for the Pub and the Pub crowd. And that’s a somebody in a position of power within the community. Which doesn’t bode well for future endeavors, whether it be the saving of the mural or attempts to establish anything other than yet another parking lot.
    *sigh*

  2. It was anticipated. Matt talked to me about it on thursday.

    None of these bands were heavy. In fact most of the night was spent with acoustic craparooni.

  3. The Scott Street owner called me late Friday afternoon. He told me that his license expired at midnight on Saturday night. It was the first I knew of the issue. While I thought it would be surprising if any serious enforcement activity would occur on that basis, he had already called the police chief with the issue. Having learned of the problem so late in the game and with the complicating factor of who it had already been brought up with, there really wasn’t anything that could have been done.

    Elected officials make policy and professional staff, like the police chief, implement it. Policy matters need to come before elected officials and this was a policy matter. The council can’t even meet without a 24-hour public notice. It would have been good if this would have been anticipated while there was time to do something about it. I would have been happy to discuss an exception for the last night if we would have had the opportunity to do that. We didn’t. I’m sorry it happened and I think it’s a shame.

  4. I agree with you Jim about all of this. It is a shame that a policy solution was not found before the final night so this situation could have been avoided.

    But I also think that we need to ask some questions about the enforcement efforts in this case.

    Was it worth sending an entire shift of officers to shut the Pub down? Was it necessary to shut the whole thing down or would have informing them they could not sell alcohol after midnight been sufficient? The Pub had recently run alcohol free (due to another issue) so perhaps they could have managed that after midnight on Saturday. Apparently the officers were in the area well before midnight, but made no warning, simply waited until after midnight and cleared the place out. So, was the aim to not have to Pub “illegally” sell alcohol or to actually shutter the place?

    If the Pub had been contacted earlier (apparently the Pub owners were trying to get some answers about their situation) could not a solution have been worked out? Even by the enforcement arm of our government?

    Why did the police department feel that such a show of force was necessary for what was an enforcement issue? How much was spent on overtime to shoo maybe 150 people into the street?

    I hope these are the kinds of questions that the overseers of our professional staff will be asking in the weeks to come.

  5. So, okay, the cops show up in force, but do they have to be so damn facist about it? What was the deal with the black gloves on all of them? Black gloves? In the summer time? Were jack boots out of stock down at the Cop Shoppe? Jeesh.

    I will have to give the police who showed up some credit though. At least they mostly had the decency to look suitably embarassed during the whole thing.

    Whoever had this bright idea gave the City a big black eye.

  6. I stood outside the Pub at 1140 pm when the police officers gathered. Roughly 8 to ten stood there waiting. Literally waiting. Precisely at 12, as they were looking at their watches , as was I…they walked into the pub and asked to see a staff person.

    I think it was a mistake. I would like to know how much 8 officers cost.

    I would like to know who made the order.

    Later, a man in a suit, a detective (?) came and was seen talking to the LT on the scene.

    This is what the Cheif of Police thought was a good idea?

    I say it again, Tom Bergs spent a million dollars providing culture in this town. How many of you sought safe haven in his bar?

    And this is it?

  7. May the hate mail begin…

    It appears from Jim’s post (here and on the Herald’s forums) that the Pub knew the license expired at midnight…

    Also, it appears that had this been brought up ahead of time, there probably could have been provisions made by the City to extend midnight out a few hours.

    Basically, sounds like a lack of planning to me.

    I know that those people who already don’t like me are going to like me even less… but one of my biggest pet peeves (and I see it every day.. many times a day sometimes) is when people fail to plan properly, bad things happen because of that planning, and then everyone blames the people doing their job and not the people who planned poorly.

    As for the number of officers.. it makes sense to me… Those people who like the pub don’t just like it, they love it… it is almost an emotional response. The PD had no way of anticipating what type of things emotional people can do (ask any officer who has gone to a domestic disturbance). Kudos to the pub patrons who kept up with the history of the pub and left with no incident… but I personally am not going to fault the PD for wanting to be prepared.

  8. (Mohawk) Matt

    The police showing up was something that was anticipated, but Tom and I didn’t really think they would do it. We were wrong, apparently.

    They waited until we were in violation. Someone could have warned us, and we would have gladly stopped serving so the show could go on.

    Was lack of planning an issue? Probably. Did the City handle this lack of planning badly? Most likely. It’s not like city officials found out the bar was closing on the 27th of June.

    I think it would have been a much different night had someone told Tom exactly what was going to happen.

  9. “So, was the aim to not have to Pub “illegally” sell alcohol or to actually shutter the place?”–Bill Coady

    “Elected officials make policy and professional staff, like the police chief, implement it. Policy matters need to come before elected officials and this was a policy matter.”–Jim Rosenberg

    Bill’s question is crucial and should require an answer from our city government and police department.

    Other questions abound:

    What is the city policy on expired liquor license enforcement? Is notification required? Is there a time certain when enforcement will begin? Is this policy in writing?

    If the police chief, as a city employee, merely “implements” policy is enforcement mandated or discretionary? Does it depend on the circumstances?

    Did the police present a written order to evacuate the premises? Who signed that order?
    How and when did that order come to be requested?

  10. An even better question to ask might be: If Dick Dudley or Bart Kellnhauser owned a bar whose liquor license expired at midnight, would a dozen cops show up to kick everyone out? I think we all know the answer to this is “No”.

  11. Thomas…I think holding those men up is a straw man. There is no point in singling out them.

  12. well beside for not agreeing with Dr. Rent, and not because of this opinion necessarily, but every previous opinion he has had.
    But beside that
    I think that the main problem with that and well PLANNING, is that the police, not all, no no. but the majority, do not know how to nor can they handle the absolute power that they are given. They end up abusing this power way way way to often. It is a shame

  13. The Wausau Municipal Code can be found at http://www.ci.wausau.wi.us/citycode2.asp?id=5

  14. Interesting tidbit there, Em0. Turns out that ALL city liquor licenses expire on June 30th, which is perhaps why the Pub’s closing date was this weekend. Of course most license holders renew for another year, which the Pub did not, of course.

    It is my understanding that two other establishments did not renew their licenses, and therefore expired on June 30th. It would be interesting to know who they were, if they were open Saturday night (or already out of business) and if so, what happened at midnight.

    Just curious.

  15. The other two licenses that expired don’t really shed much light on the situation. They were:

    – Little Italy (which has been closed for a couple of months now) and

    – Pine Ridge Mobile (a convenience store sell package goods, so not a bar.)

  16. Thanks for the info Jim!

  17. Downtown Wausau Pub Closes with Mixed Emotions
    Posted: 7:05 PM Jul 2, 2007
    Last Updated: 7:05 PM Jul 2, 2007
    Reporter: Mikel Lauber
    Email Address: mlauber@wsaw.com
    Emotions ranged from disappointment to anger for patrons of Wausau’s Scott Street Steak and Pub Saturday night after more than a half dozen officers forced the doors to close at midnight.

    “It was the wrong way to end this bar, I think,” says Matt Gardner, a manager at the pub. “It was just a bad way to go out. There were a lot of upset people here. There were some people who have been coming here for a good 20 years that were very upset.”

    After about 30 years in business, the pub is being closed for city development.

    Its liquor license was set to expire at the end of June, but the bar says it wasn’t clear police would enforce a hard midnight deadline.

    Alderman Jim Rosenberg says he’s received some calls about the incident.

    “We should look and see if it’s a local ordinance or state law that it be at midnight,” Rosenberg says. “It would make sense to have the licenses expire at the close of business.”

    Wausau Police Chief Jeff Hardel says they’ve always enforced expired liquor licenses at midnight and couldn’t treat the pub any differently.

    “If something would have happened between midnight and 2:30 and we didn’t enforce it, and somebody gets seriously hurt or killed, it’s a huge liability.”

    But some from the pub are saying better communication could have been better to help the pub go out with a bang instead of a whimper.

    Bill Coady was there that night and posted the story and pictures from the shutdown on wausaublog.org.

    “I’m sure the pub, if they had been aware they had been aware there would be that kind of enforcement action, would have shut down their sales earlier,” Coady says. ‘They’ve run alcohol-free before.”

    After some pleading from Tom Bergs, the bar’s owner, patrons did leave peacefully and followed the headlining band to a different bar where they played their show.

    While it may not have been an ideal way to go out, management says it still may have been fitting.

    “I guess we’re a rock and roll bar,” says Gardner. “What better way to go then having the boys in blue come and shut you down.”

    The entire block where the pub is located on Scott Street is being acquired by the Marathon County Economic Development Corporation.

  18. Although not having been at the Pub for many years (when they still played vinyl) I always felt it was a nice place that had great music all the time. Unfortunately the gentrification of downtown Wausau must go on. The new bar on this block will only serve margaritas and have cheesy music in the background.

    I was stunned that so many officers had to be on the scene (or more importantly why they had to be there at all!). Was it a Homeland Security thing? It would be a different matter if Tom had been repeatedly “reminded” that he could no longer serve liquor and chose otherwise. What harm would there have been to let it stay open a couple of more hours.

    I can’t say I know anything about the politics behind all this but there is a bad smell coming from somewhere.

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