In March of 2011 we opened our doors to an amazing outpouring of community support. The governor’s assault on the middle class galvanized our neighborhood, city, and surrounding area, and we were happy to stand with them and participate in some of their activity. We got the sense that we were doing the right thing, and that opening our cooperative, member-owned bar in the heart of Riverwest was a strong beacon of support and hope for the Recall, Occupy, and other burgeoning grassroots movements. After one year, the Recall failed and many who put days and days of effort into that project have fallen under a sort of malaise. We all feel it. It’s demoralization and a hot summer and the growing concern that out there, outside of our community, in the great big corporately owned-and-operated America™ and Wisconsin (Open For Business), we hardly stand a chance. Everybody’s bummed out. There’s nothing wrong with feeling that way because it is a huge bummer.
But let’s not forget what we can do. You’re part of a neighborhood that makes things happen. Riverwest is a unique community, not only to Milwaukee and Wisconsin, but to the entire country. We have a shared experience of this collective loss, but what did we expect? We saw the high tide of anti-Walker action right here, but we’re not like the rest of Wisconsin. We’re not even like the rest of Milwaukee. What seems obvious here is out of the question in other places. It’s important to realize that we have immense power to make things happen and start movements locally that have implications elsewhere, and unlike most communities, we have the resources and inspiration to actualize radical ideas. For example, a neighborhood in Minneapolis called Powderhorn just had their second 24-hour bike race modeled after, you guessed it, the Riverwest 24.That’s you, Riverwest. Pat yourself on the back.
The ultimate goal of the Public House was to create a bar that would put all its profits into starting more co-ops. We want to create a grass-roots funding model for community enterprises that are responsive to the needs of the community. This can work elsewhere. But it has to work here first. This is more than a bar, it’s the springboard for a thousand possible movements. But nothing can happen without you. If you believe in the power of this neighborhood, of the people who live here, of democratic principles, of the people to take back power from corporate citizens, then drink here. If you believe that rather than mourn, we should organize, then drink here. If you want to make the next major step forward for our society politically and economically a step away from plutocracy and toward economic democracy, then drink here. If you want to see a cooperative bakery, butcher shop, day-care, solar provider, laundromat, radio station, household cleaner manufacturer, newspaper, pharmacy, all in your neighborhood, drink here!
Right now we have over 500 members. Most of them are members because they believe in this idea and want to see it come to fruition. The lynchpin of this whole model is member support. And we need it. We need you to come in and drink with us, because the more you do, the faster we can accomplish these goals of community empowerment and community ownership. Every membership and every drink counts. The Public House is more than a bar. Come be part of it.