TRANSCRIPT: Interview with Omar Shaikh on "Beer District" skepticism, 3rd Street Market Hall at American Family Field, and much more
Omar Shaikh is a restauranteur, developer, community leader and the chairman of the Home Crew Coalition.
The Recombobulation Area is a ten-time Milwaukee Press Club award-winning weekly opinion column and online publication written, edited and published by longtime Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer. Learn more about it here.
This is a full transcript of my interview with Omar Shaikh. You can listen to this interview as a podcast here.
A couple months ago, Omar Shaikh and I got in a bit of a disagreement on Twitter.
Actually, let’s back up a bit first.
In early December of last year, Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill passed by the Wisconsin State Legislature to keep the Milwaukee Brewers in the city until 2050. The bill, committing more than $500 million in public funds to the stadium, passed with a bipartisan vote in November, and among the pieces of the deal that emerged through negotiations was the creation of a task force to study the possibility of developing around American Family Field — something we’ve called the “Beer District.”
This “Beer District” concept is something we advocated for here at The Recombobulation Area in a 2022 guest column by urban planner Robin Palm, as well as in our Milwaukee Press Club award-winning column from 2021, “Tear Down the Stadium Freeway in Milwaukee.”
This idea gained a considerable amount of attention since this column was published, and is something that leaders like Mayor Cavalier Johnson and County Executive David Crowley have expressed support for. The mayor, in particular, advocated for a “Beer District”-type of development to be part of future plans during negotiations over the bill to keep the Brewers in Milwaukee.
While it was encouraging to see a task force and study on a “pathway to development” make the final bill, what was not included in the legislation was any firm commitment to take any concrete action at the study’s conclusion.
In the days following the bill signing, A.J. Bayatpour of CBS 58 reported on the possibility of future development around the ballpark. As part of that report, he interviewed Omar Shaikh, in his role as the chairman of the Home Crew Coalition, a group formed to advocate support for the bill to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding for upgrades and maintenance at the Brewers stadium, keeping the team in Milwaukee for the foreseeable future.
In that report, Shaikh said he opposed the development of a “Beer District,” saying it was unrealistic.
That’s the part I disagreed with, and I took to Twitter to voice that disagreement. We had a little back-and-forth over this, and eventually agreed to sit down for an interview on the topic.
So, this week, we got together at 3rd Street Market Hall for a one-on-one interview to talk about the “Beer District” concept.
“You know what, I'll say this,” said Shaikh. “I probably shouldn't have said I'm in opposition to (a “Beer District”). I don't think that's fair that I said that. I actually might be for it…I just don't see how you can make financial sense of it. I think it's on an island by itself over there. Listen, in a perfect world, you do the “Beer District,” build Menomonee Valley, and you tie (it to) downtown — believe me, I believe in growth of neighborhoods that would tie us together — I just don't see it happening. I just don't.”
Shaikh and I also discussed his work with the Home Crew Coalition, this week’s news about 3rd Street Market Hall having a presence in American Family Field, the RNC in Milwaukee, being “more bullish on Milwaukee” than ever, and much more.
This transcription was generated using an AI transcription service. It has been edited to correct errors, but it’s possible we may have missed something along the way. We apologize in advance for any potential errors.
Greetings, and welcome to The Recombobulation Area. My name is Dan Shafer, thank you for joining us. We are very excited to be joined today by restaurateur, developer, community leader and chairman of the Home Crew Coalition, Omar Shaikh. Omar, thank you for being here. Welcome to The Recombobulation Area.
Great to be here with you, Dan.
SHAFER: So just to give our listeners here a little bit of context about how this conversation came together. We had a little bit of a disagreement on social media — talking about the issues, though, not a personal disagreement or anything like that. Just a disagreement about an issue involving the, what we've dubbed at The Recombobulation Area, the “Beer District.” And so we had a little bit of a Twitter back and forth about that, disagreeing about a piece of the deal that involves development around American Family Field.
Now that the deal has been signed, part of that deal involved a study to examine what the possibilities might be for development might be around American Family Field. And the story that I commented on that kind of kicked this whole thing off was from AJ Bayatpour at CBS 58, where you spoke out in opposition to the “Beer District.”
So you have this role as the Coalition Chairman of the Home Crew Coalition. And obviously, you're going to be involved in a lot of those conversations. So I'll ask you the same question now that I asked on Twitter, which is:
Even before the study happens, you're voicing opposition. Why? Why wouldn't we seek to leverage this massive investment to have a direct impact on the neighborhoods surrounding the ballpark? And why are so many leaders in this town so opposed to progress?
SHAIKH: You know what, I'll say this. I probably shouldn't have said I'm in opposition of it. I don't think it's fair that I said that. I actually might be for it. I mean, let's see what these studies come up with. I just don't think whoever's going to do the deal can make financial sense of it. I just don't.