State officials to award-winning chef/burgeoning brewer: “You can take this thing to Illinois”

This is why we can’t have nice things in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin.

Justin Aprahamian, chef-owner of Sanford Restaurant and winner of Best Chef Midwest from the James Beard Foundation in 2014, plans to open a brewery in Chicago.

Aprahamian and business partner John Lavelle, who created the Beer Fridge app, will open Like Minds Brewery in a former Goose Island storage facility on Chicago’s near northwest side. The brewery also will have a taproom.

Aprahamian and Lavelle chose Chicago as a location because Like Minds was unable to get a brewpub permit from the State of Wisconsin. State law bars an owner of a brewpub or brewery from holding retail liquor licenses for other businesses — a law that would prevent large brewers from monopolizing distribution and sales of beer. Aprahamian has a retail liquor license for Sanford, 1547 N. Jackson St.

As if losing Justin Aprahamian and his brewery to Illinois isn’t bad enough, it appears officials in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration really didn’t care if Aprahamian took his business to Illinois.

Aprahamian and Lavelle estimate they looked at 50 potential sites in Milwaukee for the brewery and were negotiating distribution agreements when they saw “red flags.” They had their lawyer talk with the state. They also spoke with state officials.

“At one point, they said to us, ‘You can take this thing to Illinois,'” Lavelle said. “I actually had them repeat that.”

Apparently folks in Gov. Walker’s administration aren’t big believers in the idea that Wisconsin is “Open for Business.”


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2 thoughts on “State officials to award-winning chef/burgeoning brewer: “You can take this thing to Illinois”

  1. This is an extremely rare instance where I actually agree with the Walker Administration. They were simply following Wisconsin state law (something they don’t usually do) in denying Like Minds Brewery a license to operate as a brewpub, and I oppose repealing the anti-trust law that prohibits brewpub owners from having retail licenses for other types of businesses associated with the booze industry. If that law is repealed, Big Booze (i.e., MillerCoors, Anheuser-Busch, etc.) would drive brewpubs out of existence in Wisconsin, a state where King Booze has a ton of cultural and political influence that is nearly as big as King Coal’s influence in states like West Virginia.

    Far too often, government officials, especially at the state and local levels, bend over backwards for business interests. Often times, it’s best not to bend over to business interests.

  2. Disclosure for earlier comment: I am an Illinois resident, although I live closer to Terre Haute, Indiana than Chicago. I apologize for not including the disclosure in my earlier comment, as it’s clearly relevant for this particular blog post.

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