If you’re familiar with the Wisconsin Area Music Industry awards (or WAMIs, for short), you know that Brookfield’s Saloon on Calhoun is a perennial “Best Live Club/Venue” nominee. And if you’re familiar with Saloon on Calhoun owner Dave Dayler, you know that he is, in his own words, “a sole…entrepreneur…proprietor…concerned citizen…freedoms, whatever it is, I want to stand for freedom.” So how does Dayler do this? By openly (albeit briefly) defying a statewide ban on all public gatherings of 10 or more people put in place due to the ongoing coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic and putting the lives of his patrons and the lives of others at risk, of course. ROCK ON.

The story, in brief: On Tuesday (a.k.a. St. Patrick’s Day), Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers ordered the ban on all public gatherings of 10 or more people. The ban went into effect at 5 p.m. But as 5 p.m. rolled around, Saloon on Calhoun kept its doors open, with Dayler getting on a microphone and telling folks: “It’s after 5 o’clock, so as of right now, you all are officially rebels like us.” In a Facebook post from earlier that day, Dayler said that “we have a Rock-n-Roll attitude and a WE WILL SURVIVE mindset.” In other words, NO BULLSHIT BAN WAS GONNA STOP THE IAN GOULD SHOW FROM HAPPENING FROM 4:30 UNTIL 7:30, MOTHERFUCKERS.

Once word of the expression of freedom/health hazard leaked, however, FOX6 News was there in a jiffy with some hidden cameras. The police showed up, too. Here’s the FOX6 piece from Tuesday night:

By Wednesday morning, however, Saloon on Calhoun had complied with the ban and closed its doors. And on Wednesday night, because it was apparently the only business in the state affected by the ban, it posted a rambling 878-word “sorry-not-sorry” missive on Facebook. BECAUSE FREEDOM.

Here’s the FOX6 follow-up piece from Wednesday night:

And here are all 878 words from Saloon on Calhoun’s Facebook post. God help us all, indeed.

We are SALOONatics NOT lunatics!

That was how I started a post on this page Monday. The same day, Governor Evers banned gatherings of 50 or more. We plodded on, knowing not as many people would probably be coming out, so staying under 50 people shouldn’t be problematic. We totally care about our guests. Our industry also trains and certifies us in keeping things clean, sanitized and uncontaminated. We were diligent about hand washing and sanitizing tables after every guest left their space. We have a vested interest in our guest’s health and well-being. It’s what we have always done.

Monday was the worst day of business in 8 years, even though we were open.

Tuesday was St Patrick’s Day. We managed to hire a local musician to perform earlier on St Paddy’s, and announced it as a “50 people or less party”. The ban was 50 people Monday night and we were complying as told.

Please understand we plan events months in advance, staff up for them weeks in advance, and order product weeks in advance also. What looks like a party to others is a lot of coordinated effort by us. But it’s what we do and we love helping our guests have a great time!

Also understand we talk to a lot of people. Hundreds a week. Every week. We hear how you feel and what you’re saying. Many of you feel like this virus quarantine is not necessary. Many feel like their rights are being taken away for very little more than a mass-hysteria apocalyptic event that isn’t even as bad as things we’ve had before. These aren’t people that are dumb or in denial. Sane people with valid points. Like people who get angry when the news hypes a “snow event” that ends up being nothing. Everything was shut down because their charts showed what never happened. We respect that all people have a right to their opinion. Ours is not to judge, but to listen.

We have always remained neutral territory. We have welcomed and loved all our guests no matter who they are or what they believe. That is who we are.

We are the place you go to relax, to celebrate, to enjoy, to consume, to dance and yes; even to ROCK! We will always fight for your right to do so.

Yesterday we may have fought a bit too far. For the sake of our loyal patrons, we wanted to explain what happened and apologize for any embarrassment we may have brought on our community by our actions. We have such loyal patrons, and we want you all to be proud of our collective Saloon family.

At 1:49 pm St Patrick’s Day the Governor announces that all bars and restaurants must close at 5pm that same day. We were already in operation mode. Didn’t know. Opened at 4 as planned. Patrons told us about the ban. All we could think about at that time was ‘what is happening’? There are 5 reported isolated cases in all of Waukesha County as of this writing now. Our patrons were already there. There was no local outbreak. We were not acting irresponsibly on any level other than a 5pm ban issued with 3 hours notice that nobody on staff received.

That’s when FOX6 Investigator Bryan Polcyn showed up outside with hidden cameras already inside. He asked questions but no matter the answers, he kept asking questions that fit his narrative. From those answers he took snippets and put us on the news.

What we were trying to call attention to was how this hysteria over this virus is more dangerous to our country than the disease itself. Already is. I talked about the hundreds of thousands of people that were now going to be unemployed. The musicians that only make a living performing for others, who now don’t have shows or income. Talked about the owners who leverage everything and are barely holding on week after week, that this will put them out of business. It’s economical madness. If staying open a few extra hours gave us a chance to make a statement about the damage being done to our country right now by this, then that was worth staying open for. To exercise our freedom of speech and public gathering. To unite as unafraid, free people together. It was never about being rebels or risking public health. We wanted to speak out on behalf of bar and restaurant owners everywhere.

There are no real cases of coronavirus at or from Saloon.

Saloon DID really just lay off 58 employees this morning. Saloon IS now closed except for delivery and carry-out. We were a live music venue. We were the best.

We have about 2 weeks for this ban to be lifted or we are closed for good. That’s what is at stake. That’s why we stayed open. Now you know the rest of the story.

We have received your hate mail and threats. We are not opening. Please relax. For those who want to see us open ever again, we would love you to order as much carry-out as you can handle. This is not a drill. All future events are cancelled until the ban is lifted.

God help us all.

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.