To shore up support for their suit against the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, the owners of Brothers Bar and Grill have undertaken a campaign to elicit student support.
In ads placed in student newspapers and The Onion Thursday and a substantial amount of material on its Madison website dedicated to the issue, the owners called for students to “Save Brothers Bar and Grill.”
The Brothers owners recently brought suit against the Board of Regents regarding a disagreement over UW’s acquisition of the bar through the board’s condemnation power. UW plans to use the location for a $43 million School of Music facility.
Students opting to help out with the campaign, according to the website, can call the Board of Regents or sign a petition to the state Legislature in support of a recent proposed bill calling for greater oversight of the Board of Regent’s condemnation power.
“We are looking for any ounce of support we can get,” said Brothers co-owner Eric Fortney, adding this is “truly a David versus Goliath situation.”
UW System spokesperson David Giroux said this is part of a well-orchestrated, well-funded public relations and lobbying campaign that may be costly for taxpayers, university donors and students.
Today’s UW students are smart and they don’t like being manipulated, so we expect they’ll see through this fa?ade,” Giroux said in an e-mail to The Badger Herald.
The owners are also in search of support in the Legislature.
According to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, three lobbyists are registered to represent the interest of Brother’s co-owner Marc Fortney for the 2009-10 Legislative session, with their listed interest being legislative oversight of the Board of Regent’s eminent domain.
Eric Fortney said the procedure for acquisition was not properly followed as complete funding for the project has not yet been secured, and a clear reason the facility satisfies a public need has not been brought forth. He said the acquisition also goes back on a previous relocation agreement the owners had with UW where the bar would be located to Frances Street.
Eric Fortney said he does not want anything from the Board of Regents but for them to honor the relocation agreement previously agreed upon.
According to Giroux, the plans for acquiring the bar have been well established and publicized, dating back to its inclusion in the 2005 campus master plan. The State Legislature approved the project in the 2007-09 budget.
The Board of Regents offered $2.1 million for the bar through the condemnation process.
The offer covers the mortgage that is owed for the property, yet falls short of covering the cost of relocation or building another bar, which UW and the Wisconsin Area Research Foundation promised the owners in 2007, according to Eric Fortney. He added it does not take into account the more than $900,000 additional investment in the business.
Giroux said the $2.1 million is more than the property has been assessed by the city of Madison and more than an independent appraisal. The city of Madison appraised the property at $682,000 in 2008, and the private appraisal valued it at $1.1 million.