Category Archives: Business

Local Businesses and Companies

Time to Eat Your Car?

So, by now you have certainly noticed the price of gasoline continuing to climb. And you may have even noticed that a few things are a bit more expensive in the grocery store. Well you are not the only one to have noticed that things are about to get out of hand.

In a nutshell, what the World Bank (and others) are noticing is that the price of oil has a wee little something to do with the price of food, in on way that is obvious to most people and one that might not be so obvious.

The obvious reason (that might not at first be so obvious) is that nothing you eat is grown or made here. See any banana trees outside your windows? Your tomato plants all nice and healthy after the snow squalls yesterday? Turns out that the average morsel of food on your plate has traveled some 1500 miles to get there. And that is the overall average for the whole country, so I am going to guess that us northerners may have it a bit worse. So, transportation costs alone will add a bit, perhaps quite a bit to your food bill. But that is not the biggest impact that transporation will have on your food budget.

Your car also is very hungry and has to be fed.

In searching for renewable energy sources we hit upon the idea of using ethanol in the place of gasoline. Which sounds fantastic. Ethanol comes from plants and plants are solar energy, right? Also, ethanol was sold to us as a boon for the farmers of America. “Fill-er-up” and save the family farm. Or something like that. Turns out that almost none of that is exactly true.

It is true that ethanol is usually made from corn and that in a sense corn is a renewable resource. Unfortunately, the way most corn is grown, it uses up tons of non-renewable resources. Those conflakes of yours are soaked in oil — not corn oil, the crude kind.

Turns out that the high price of oil is squeezing the price of food on two fronts.

First, modern agriculture requires literally tons and tons of oil. From making fertilizers to running water pumps to trucking the stuff all over the globe, agriculture consumes huge quantities of fossil fuels. The higher the price of oil, the higher the price of food. But wait there’s more!

Now as more corn is diverted from the food chain into the ethanol plants, the price of food goes higher still! Land that could have been used to say, grow broccoli (OK, more likely wheat) is given over to corn — corn which no one will ever eat. Did you just hear the price of eggs going up again? Less corn on the market means more expensive chicken feed. More expensive eggs that cost more to ship than ever. Thank goodness ethanol is such a good deal and is saving the family farm!

Sorry, wrong on both counts.

Ethanol is not a good deal by most calculations. In fact it is a terrible deal.

The most optimistic number I have seen says that for each barrel of oil needed to make and transport ethanol we get about 1.3 barrels of energy (to compare apples to apples). For crude oil currently each barrel invested in finding, extracting and transporting yields something like 20 to 200 barrels of energy. So, ethanol has a long way to go, or oil has a long way to fall.

And ethanol does not really save any family farms. As you may have already figured, ethanol favors the kind of huge, monocropped factory farm that degrades the land and generates huge profits (and subsidies) for companies like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland.

The only way out of the coming food crisis is to use less fossil fuels, both in agriculture and transporation. But fortunately there is a way to start doing that. Which we will talk about next time.

Unidentified Dudley Object

So, L and I were driving back from the Wisconsin Englishes presentation at UWMC when she turns to me and says, “Do you see that?”

I did indeed. And I took pictures of what we saw. They are NOT photoshopped, if anything, the colors look even richer to the eye than they do to the camera.

Makes for an interesting skyline, that is all I have to say.

Click on any or all of the thumbs for the larger image, but you get the idea.

UDO 7 UDO 6UDO 5UDO 4

UDO 3UDO 2UDO 1

Also Spotted Downtown

Big Boxes are people too!! Please Give!!!

Click for larger image

Pub Memories

I received the following in an email the other day, and have been given permission to post it here.  If I get enough Pub memories, I will start a page just for them.  Feel free to put your memories as comments, or you can email me.  If you have pictures from way back when that would be most appreciated!

I have to tell you, the Scott Streak Steak and Pub will always have a special place in my heart as well as my career. In 1990, I came to Wausau to help out with the upstart State Senate campaign of a blue collar guy named Russ Decker. At the time our headquarters was two doors down from the Steak and Pub. The pay was lousy and sporadic at best. I was sleeping on couches and the floor of the headquarters while working insane hours to help someone I believed in.

Tom Bergs, Todd Rasmussen, Frankie and the entire staff at the Steak and Pub welcomed me with open arms, fed me when paychecks didn’t show up and we shared a few coctails while listening to one of the best blues collections I’ve ever heard. It was a shame when the blues collection went up in smoke, literally. By the end of the campaign it became the running joke that our campaign was actually being run out of the Steak and Pub. It wasn’t far from the truth.

In the end, Russ Decker surprised everyone and won that election. To this day Russ stands as one of the finest elected officials Wisconsin has. For the next several elections, it became mandatory that the Democratic campaign headquarters be located near the Steak and Pub. In 1994, we secured an office right next door and threatened to get out a sledge hammer and build our own walk up window to the Steak and Pub.

When I came back to Wausau after living in Key West for five years, my first stop was lunch at the Steak and Pub. Tom was cooking and on the wall behind the bar was a sign from the Damn Good Food To Go restaurant in Key West. I was home again.

Jim Smith, Director

Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee

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.

Penultimate Night

Well, it seems there is just one night left for music at the Scott Street Pub tonight. Last night was a hard rockin’g blues band with one of the best rhythm sections I have heard for a long time. They were certainly pumping out the beat. I am not a big fan of overly long guitar solos, but other folks seemed to be enjoying it.

Click for Larger ImageBut the groove was good and people got up and danced, including the man of the hour.

Tonight is the last night, and fittingly enough the Corpse Show Creeps will be closing the place. Nothing like going out with a psychobilly party. My understanding is that there will be some open mic time starting around 9 pm, hopefully with a few of the local folks who have played there getting one last chance to get some stage time at the Pub.

Although as a physical venue the Pub is not perfect, it will surely be missed for the sheer volume and variety of live music that has been showcased there. The only place I can think of that is even close to that variety and volume is Clark Place down in Point. As Dino calculated in an earlier post, Tom Bergs and the Pub have poured probably at least a million bucks in to the pockets of musicians over the last 20 years. This represents a support of the arts that is almost at foundation levels. I am sure a place like the CVA would love to get a million dollar grant, even spread over 20 years. The Pub has been a tremendous resource, both to the city, but also to the musical community here.

Hopefully, someone will step up and create a new venue for live music and get started on their million dollar grant. But in the mean time you can come out to the Pub tonight for one last chance to say “thanks” for the memories, and put a few last dollars into the live music jukebox that has been the Scott Street Pub.

Scott Street Pub Winding Down

Click for Larger ImageSo it seems that two decades of musical heritage is now reduced to two nights and two nights only. Jim Carlson, his band and quite a few assorted friends, family and others took to the stage last night to begin the farewell to the Pub. For a place that has made its reputation with live music, this weekend’s musical windup is most appropriate.

It may be true that the Pub has outlived its glory days by quite a bit. It is certainly showing its age and is no longer an ideal place for bigger shows. The stage is small, the room is acoustically awful and the lighting is marginal. But you cannot deny the atmosphere. You can almost feel the ghosts of all those who have come before. Even a venue as wonderful as Clark Place down in Stevens Point cannot match the pub for atmosphere, especially rock ‘n roll or blues atmosphere. The pub is drenched in that feeling.

The last two acts scheduled for the Pub are perfect picks to match the atmosphere. Tonight, the blues take center stage as Adam Douglas and his band the Deacons take the stage. And for the grand finale, Corpse Show Creeps, a psychobilly band from Minneapolis provides the soundtrack.

Over 50 years ago rock ‘n roll grew out of the intersection of the blues with rockabilly, if not actually in the Scott Street Pub, in places a lot like it. So you can relive history and at the same time see (and hear) the history book closing on an important era and irreplaceable music venue in our city. Hope to see you there.