Atlanta brewery Monday Night Brewing (MNB) has come under fire after hosting an event for a controversial political candidate.
The brewery responded publicly to critics today following their decision to allow an event for Georgia gubernatorial nominee Brian Kemp (R).
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) held a press conference at the brewery’s original Trabert Avenue location in Westside last Wednesday to announce their endorsement of Kemp.
The Republican nominee for governor (and ardent supporter of President Donald Trump) is in favor of passing a highly controversial “religious freedom bill” in Georgia, a bill that current governor, Nathan Deal, vetoed. The bill has faced particular opposition since Atlanta is home to one of the country’s largest LGBTQ communities and hosts the South’s largest Pride festival every October. Kemp has also made highly controversial public remarks regarding immigrants, including saying in one campaign ad he’d “round up criminal illegals” in his truck, and has boasted about being politically incorrect. In another ad, he’s seen pointing a shotgun at a potential suitor for his daughter.
So, when word leaked that Monday Night Brewing allowed the Kemp-centered event to take place, critics of the nominee were quick to let the brewery know on social media their disapproval of the decision.
Hoping to quell the outcry, MNB posted a statement entitled “Our Core Beliefs” to its website Friday morning.
A portion of the statement reads:
We do not endorse Brian Kemp for Georgia’s Governor, nor do we endorse Stacey Abrams [D] for Georgia’s Governor. To put a finer point on it, we have not contributed to Kemp’s campaign as a company or as individual owners.
We are a company made up of a diverse set of people with a diverse set of beliefs, and we celebrate that. We are a company founded on our purpose statement, “deepening human relationships over some of the best beer in the country.” This means tearing down walls between people (through beer, in our case), not building up walls. That said – while we do not endorse political candidates, we do endorse and support individual causes.
We are still a small start-up brewery, with the majority of our energy and revenues going back into building a business that can sustain itself (queue the world’s tiniest violin). We have not put the thought or effort into our social stances that we should have, and there is much more we can and should do as a company. We also know we can’t do it all ourselves, so we believe in partnering with organizations in and around our city already doing good, healing work.
In an interview with Atlanta Magazine’s Steve Fennessy, partner Joel Iverson says he didn’t “fully anticipate how much it would blow back” and he is concerned with the response from the brewery’s Garage neighbors in West End, a majority African American neighborhood. Iverson tells Fennessy one man, a person of color, raised concerns to him personally — not about Kemp being a Republican, but about Kemp himself, saying, “As a person of color who’s not in the majority white culture, when I see someone like Kemp and I see him welcomed at your brewery, then I think maybe I’m not welcome at your brewery.”
MNB partner Jonathan Baker tells Eater Atlanta the brewery didn’t cease normal business operations during the Kemp event. The organizers of the press conference spoke while palettes of beer were moved out to the loading dock in the heat and brewery staff were going about their work days.
Baker, who was initially against the idea of allowing the event at the brewery, says he wishes he’d fought harder against the decision and admits it was a mistake.
“I completely understand where people are coming from, that it isn’t just republican versus democrat. Today’s political environment is personal,” Bakers says. “The issues we’re dealing with as a culture are personal and affect people at a very personal level.”
Baker, Iverson, and Jeff Heck (MNB’s third partner) reached out to neighborhood associations surrounding the Garage — located off the Westside Beltline trail in southwest Atlanta — to invite them to the brewery to speak with all three owners and to ask questions.
“We would still be more than happy to entertain hosting Abrams’ camp. We think now, especially, there’s no way we can’t get involved in politics,” adds Baker. “If we find someone who is willing to hold an event here with honest conversation and discourse, of course, we’re going to let it happen.”
Monday Night Brewing also clarified that they did not take payment from NFIB for the event last week.
The brewery isn’t the only Atlanta business in hot water over connections to Kemp. Local breakfast chain Flying Biscuit posted a photo of owner Joseph Hsiao with the nominee in 2015. In a story published by LGBTQ publication Project Q Atlanta, it was discovered Hsiao and his business contributed $2,000 to Kemp. Flying Biscuit’s Midtown location sits at the intersection of the rainbow crosswalk at the corner of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue — considered the heart of Atlanta’s LGBTQ community.