The Nitty Gritty boycott


I’ll start off by stating an obvious point, which my cherished commenter Paul Axel has advanced on this site on several occasions. The Nitty Gritty was well-deserving of a student boycott long before its owner “disrespected” students. It’s a terrible bar and it’s frankly an embarrassment that so many of-age students crowd into the establishment during “Power Hour” to guzzle down watered-down cocktails and be pushed up against walls vibrating to the sound of Miley Cyrus because the bouncers apparently do not respect the fire code (by the way, Shapiro earlier had the ALRC capacity of the place upped).

Like I said earlier, whether or not I support the Herald and Cardinal’s positions, I am happy to see the campus papers discover their student attitude. And as a history student, I appreciated the Declaration of Independenesque bullshit the Herald put in its version. The Herald – especially the Herald – tends to waffle and triangulate on student issues, and many of the ed board members fear nothing more than being considered liberal.

Because I think having a student vote on the ALRC is a good idea, I see no reason to oppose the boycott of the Nitty. Although the idea of a boycott feels mean-spirited to many-a-gut, it is an effective way of demonstrating a position. The target does not have to be evil or doing evil things. Shapiro did something we don’t like and we’re simply trying to get him to change his position.

Nevertheless, having a student vote on the committee is by no means intuitive. The idea of having constituencies have votes can be questioned. It makes sense to have expert witnesses and have community input on all legislation, but there is not necessarily a reason that any special interest or constituency should have a permanent place at the table – let a lone a vote. However, that’s the system we have. So we might as well get one of our own that same privileges that other groups have.

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11 Responses to “The Nitty Gritty boycott”

  1. Paul A. Says:

    Hah, cherished commenter *rolls eyes*.

    Everyone knows that’s blog-speak for “annoyance.”

    I think a simple alcohol boycott of the Nitty might be effective, and more fair to the student employees, who make most of their money off tips.

  2. Gerald Cox Says:

    This boycott is ill advised. I smell Jason Smathers. That’s not to say that he does ill advised things on a regular basis, but this one definitely is. I’d say more, but am out the door.

  3. The Sconz Says:

    Paul, a cherished commenter is somebody who’s been with the Sconz since day one (almost) and enriches the blog by taking the time to complete his points, in contrast to Gerald Cox, who, at this point is not a cherished commenter, but simply an “appreciated one.”

  4. Jason Smathers Says:

    Thanks for the stirring contribution, Gerald.

    I understand Paul’s point and the criticism both papers have received from Dane101 and multiple commenters (who seem to think is childish, irresponsible and a good argument for why we SHOULDN’T) have a seat at ALRC.

    But knowing that this is starting a movement in the right direction and we can use this as a breaking point for organization and dialogue, I would suggest even if this idealistic boycott doesn’t break the knees of Marsh Shapiro (which I don’t expect and don’t assume will happen, because I know better than to be that insane), it’s gotten those who agree with that assessment of ALRC’s backwards approach to this situation to pay attention.

    Marsh is a symbol of stubborn refusal to treat customers as anything other than that. You can buy drinks, but you can’t have anything to do with my business. While both papers could have simply shook their fingers, no one would have batted an eye. But a statement that so callously disregards a 1/4 of the city’s population (and yes, if you include the Madison MATC campus, UW and Edgewood, you’ve got a fourth.) deserves to be given not just a measured response, but a principled stand.

    On top of that we have people’s attention. More importantly, we have students attention.

    Students are looked at for not being active and involved in city issues and that has to end. If there’s ever an opening point for involvement and engagement in city issues — both in terms of the hurdles we face and the easy access for raising student interest — this is it.

    The naysayers who call this move ill-advised and childish obviously don’t know that I rarely dispense with pragmatism unless I think it serves some other goal. In this case, I think this produces momentum to go into City Council when the issue is raised and bring along students who wouldn’t have cared about this until we did something rather against the grain.

    That’s what we’ve done. And it’s only the beginning. I only encourage anyone who wants to help ensure that students have a seat at the table and start using their voice do so by e-mailing Bryon Eagon at beagon [at] wisc [dot] edu or Mark Woulf at mwouf [at] wisc [dot] edu.

  5. Gerald Cox Says:

    Heh, if I still wrote at the Herald I’d be writing a column titled: BOYCOTT YOURSELVES and call for a boycott of the widespread apathy and lack of involvement in local and campus issues from students which has done waaay more damage than this.

    The best way to get this done would be to flood a meeting(s) with concerned students. But, that’s not possible, because I’d be surprised if you could even get a pack of well organized College Dems on this one. Suchita tried it all the time for comparable issues, and no one budged. Of course, the Far Left is way more prone to action. Mayhaps the Wispirgs and Sar Zin Skis of the world will get involved. But the fact remains: 95% of students don’t mind the relation we have with the ALRC one little bit.

    Punishing a business owner for expressing a fairly legitimate opinion in regard to student apathy is just reactionary. It’s like the DC circa 1970sish you know? This issue just is not that important to the overwhelming vast majority of students.

    I’m with you on the principle. Just not on applying it to this situation.

  6. Jason Smathers Says:


    95 % of students “don’t mind” the relation we have with ALRC because 95% of students don’t know that ALRC exists.

    Furthermore, it’s not punishment in my mind. we’re not trying to tell Marsh Shapiro that because he was mean to me I’m not going to eat at your restaurant anymore. We’re telling him that if he doesn’t value his customers as citizens and believes his voice is more legitimate than the students (which is evidenced not just by this stand, but by his and the tavern league’s stand against the NON-VOTING student when that came along), then why should we give him our money for goods we can get just as well elsewhere? I’m not asking to go burn his business, I’m asking people to go somewhere else. It’s a message, not a punishment. Especially since he’s selling the bar and probably will get a good amount of business regardless of what we do.

    And as for the flooding meetings, thing — there’s a difference between this and ALDP. ALDP was a measure that slights bar owner and purveyors of alcohol. In that sense, it’s hard to create a message around “We’re drunk and want more opportunities to be drunker!” This is a matter of fair representation for a group that’s not given any. I think that you can rally students around the idea of having a vote in matters where they make up a large portion of the city population. And in that regard, this ALRC position is only a way of entering that larger discussion of city involvement. I know students don’t have a good track record. I’m hoping we can make an effort to change that.

  7. Sam Clegg Says:

    Tried to submit this comment earlier but it didn’t work. I tend to agree with the boycott from Craver’s point of view – this is a realizable chance for the student papers to take the first step toward eradicating so-called apathy. As necessary as editorials on ASM are (and effective, apparently, to my pleasant surprise), where the Herald has the most influence is with regards to alcohol/city issues in general.

    Also…what’s the word on student employees?

  8. Paul A. Says:

    Student employees (based on comments on the BH site) seem to be sticking by their boss – that is, if those are actual workers commenting.

    I can see where they’re coming from. I don’t think Shapiro is necessarily a bad guy, but according to what I hear, he’s a real nut-buster when it comes to his business and how it’s run. I would be disappointed if he wasn’t. I’m guessing he treats his employees relatively well.

    Since I live right near the Gritty, I was heading back to my apartment around eleven last night; there wasn’t a huge line or anything out the door as usual. Maybe it’s because it was a bye week, so a lot of kids went home or something, and there aren’t a bunch of out-of-towners around as well.

  9. Jesse Says:

    Jason, it is unfortunate that you are projecting the word “childish” into my response to your boycott. I don’t see that written anywhere.

    What I wrote is that I believe the energy the BH and DC put into writing a rare joint editorial could be better used writing joint editorials calling on students to attend the Common Council meeting and expressing why they want this seat. The impact of a boycott of the Nitty is going to be very difficult to measure and, as I noted, the ALRC vote already has occurred. What can be measured is a dozen plus students filling up council time speaking about why this issue is important.

  10. Jason Smathers Says:


    Was referring to the comments on our site, not you.

  11. Jesse Says:

    Ahhh, okay, the parenthetical is after “commenters” and not “dane101.” Got it.

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