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This was the sign that was torn down last weekend. (PHOTO: Enlightened Brewing Company Facebook)

Enlightened Brewing Company assures "Hate Has No Home"

Over the weekend, Enlightened Brewing Company, 2018 S. 1st St., experienced what it referred to in a Facebook post as a "confusing situation," which some condemned as a form of hate crime and others considered no big deal, concerning a sign posted in the tap room that said – in multiple different languages – "Hate Has No Home Here."

By Tuesday, Enlightened's post had received 1,200 "Likes," more than 100 shares and nearly 100 comments, with many lauding the brewery's publicly progressive position and its poised reaction to the adverse incident.

Here is the text of the Facebook post:

Over the weekend we had a confusing situation occur in our tap room. A man with his wife and two legal drinking age daughters decided to film himself for a few minutes before ripping this sign down. When confronted with the question, "sir did you have a problem with our sign?" the man responded with no more than, "yes i did".

We have had such a great time with all of the positive and loving friends family and new customers that have been into our little tap room over the past year and will continue to have a great time with them.

We wanted to post about this story to solidify our feelings about our community and the diversity that it celebrates. We hold true to the values that this positive little sign represents. Anyone, no matter their values and beliefs are welcome to come in and enjoy themselves in our space.

The sign has been replaced and will always be replaced when things like this happen. So we wanted to say thank you again to everyone that have shared so many awesome moments over the past year and remind everyone that hate truly has no home here at Enlightened Brewing Company. Cheers.

We reached out to James Larson, Enlightened Brewing Company's co-owner and director of operations to learn more about what went down and to get the company's response.

OnMilwaukee: So, what happened?

James Larson: It was Saturday, kind of a slow night, maybe 10 or 15 people in the place. I was behind the bar, the only one working that day. A middle-aged white man and, I assume, his wife and two daughters came in and they ordered beer and sat down.

We've got an old 1920s radio that we converted into a standing tabletop area to cover up a sump pump, and the sump pump has a control box, which is where the sign is located. We put it up because we enjoy the sign, but we're also using it to cover that area up, as well. The sign is in the southwest corner of the tap room; the front door is in the northwest corner, about 10 feet away.

I noticed the guy was standing by it and had his phone out, so I figured he was taking a picture of it or a video. It seemed like he was taking a video – he was talking, so I assumed it was on camera – but I haven't looked, and I'm not interested in going out and finding it.

But then he just ripped the sign down and set it on the tabletop and sat back down. So, I approached him and asked, "Did you have a problem with our sign?" And he said, "Yes I did." And that was when the daughters jumped in and said, "Oh, we're so embarrassed. We're leaving." I didn't kick him out. I didn't have to; they removed themselves.

The Facebook post got a ton of engagement and attention; what was your reaction to that?

We were surprised by the response we got on the post. It was really meant to shed light on the fact that we want to be a positive presence in the community – a safe space, if you will – and that we have had a great time with the overwhelming majority of people that stop in to see us.

By no means are we anything but privileged white people. I get to make beer for a living; we're not by any means saying we're the voice of any big movement or anything like that. We've gotten a lot of support for the sign; there's been some negativity toward the man, but we're not trying to shame him at all. We're just saying, hey, we're trying to provide a space that's open, welcoming, warm, and we don't want anyone to show up and screw that up for the rest of the good folks around. But we're also not trying to capitalize on other people's hardships or issues.

Where did the sign come from?

There's a campaign going around (hatehasnohome.org/index.html), and a friend of ours, his wife brought the campaign to Milwaukee with these yard signs. Our friend brought us a couple of them because we thought they were cool and said we'd absolutely put them up.

This is supposed to be a fun place; we're not supposed to be angry or hate one another here in the least. It's just the face value what the sign says, political opinions aside. There's a number of them around, especially in Bay View. I had one on our fridge back by the desk here, so when the gentleman ripped the sign down, I went and grabbed the other sign and put it right back up.

What was the reaction like at the bar?

Really, there was no reaction. I was talking to my friend, who's Hispanic and grew up on the South Side, and, being a privileged white man, saying, "Oh, man, this makes me so mad." He said, "Yeah, it's tough when you don't see it every day, but it happens every day," and a lot of us don't really notice it.

But pretty much everybody in the bar kind of ignored the situation and went back to doing their own thing, and I'm thankful that they did because I'd hate to have it ruin people's night. We're not trying to give any power to anybody that does something aggressive like that. I don't think anybody reacted too drastically and nobody was really that offended. The sign was back up in a matter of minutes.

You said you're not trying to launch a movement or make this any bigger than it is, but do you have any plans to use the attention as an opportunity?

It's definitely not something that we're trying to have be a defining moment for us, although it is. I think what we've already been doing in the community, partnering with different local community organizations, as normal. But maybe this will strengthen our tie to the community, and we'll do some more stuff – not because of this, but in addition to what we're already doing, we can add to it and help the community become more comfortable and more focused on openness and acceptance.

What sort of things have you guys already been doing in the community?

A lot with donations from the tap room. We've done events for a lot of local charities, the local Montessori school; we've done things for organizations like Masa, with the March for Science; we've done some anti-sexual-assault-in-bars donations; for Cinco de Mayo we partnered with Dock 18 and Eagle Park to raise money for the Hispanic Community Center; we try and do as much with the community as we can in the way of donations or fundraisers. We make it a point to help out, especially if they're in our neighborhood.


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