Oak Park Brewing Company 'out,' then in

Local brewer takes to social media in run-up to Oaktoberfest

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By Thomas Vogel

Staff Reporter

They were out and then they were in.  

Oak Park Brewing Company announced, Aug. 29 around 11 a.m., in a Facebook post that they had been barred from participating in this year's Oaktoberfest by the event's organizer, Downtown Oak Park. Oak Park Brewing Company was "livid," according to the post. They'd participated in last year's event, and, according to the post, very much enjoyed it. 

"Apparently, Downtown Oak Park feels that the community would be best served by letting a large beer distributor dictate who can and cannot pour there, and since we are not one of their brands, we have been left out," the post from the company's Facebook page read. 

The post encouraged Oak Parkers to contact Downtown Oak Park, the event's organizer, and "let them know how inappropriate it is for a self-styled organization of local businesses to freeze out a local business in favor of a big beer distributor." 

About five hours later, around 4 p.m., the same Facebook post was updated and said Oak Park Brewery would, in fact, participate. 

In another subsequent Facebook post, Jim Cozzens, a partner at Oak Park Brewing Company, offered an apology. 

"I would like to issue an apology to the staff of Downtown Oak Park for the way I treated them in yesterday's post. While we have worked everything out amicably with them now, I was certainly over-aggressive with my language yesterday towards their organization which is comprised of a staff of two very over-worked and under-appreciated individuals," Cozzens wrote. 

"While I never intended to ruin their day with my post, things got out of hand very quickly, and it is a very good reminder to me and to all of us of the power of social media. We should all think more, be slower to anger, and quicker to forgive, myself especially."

In an Aug. 30 phone call, Shannon Williams, Downtown Oak Park's marketing director, called the whole situation a "misunderstanding" and confirmed Oak Park Brewing Company would be participating. 

"It simply was that," Williams said. "We never wanted to exclude him. Basically, it's a misunderstanding."

She explained last year's event was the first to allow a "local brew tent," which included Oak Park Brewery. This year, Williams said, Downtown Oak Park decided to "stick with our one distributor," McCook-based Burke Beverage Inc. Williams said Burke carries several local brews, including Kinslahger Brewing Company and Wild Onion Tied House. 

A call to Kyle Entler, a Burke spokesperson, was not returned by press time. 

Williams said they'd worked out an agreement with Burke to serve Oak Park Brewing Company beers at the event. Oak Park Brewing Company is the only non-Burke beverage business participating, Williams said.  

The event will feature live music, food, activities and local craft brews on Lake Street, between Marion Street and Forest Avenue. The 2017 event is set for Sept. 15 and 16. 

As of Sept. 1, none of Oak Park Brewing Company beers were listed on the event's website, alongside other brews, including Wild Onion and Kinslahger, to be featured at the festival. 

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