A Brew at the Goose

The sun was setting, and Rob Rasner and Steven Hall watched it descend in silence. After eight straight months of twelve-hour days, thousands upon thousands of dollars invested, and countless meetings with city officials, their bid to open The Winchester Goose was on the verge of being refused outright by the City of Chico.

“Damn,” Rob said aloud. “This is tough.”

“Yeah,” said Steven.

They both took sips of beer, then Rob said, “It’s kind of fun, isn’t it?”

Steven smiled. “Yeah.”

The anecdote above is a great example of the driving energy behind these two young business owners. “We wouldn’t be having as good of a time unless it got really hard,” Rob said. Best friends since they met in an apartment in the Zoo in 1999, Rob and Steven have been working for almost a year alongside other beer-devoted friends to build The Winchester Goose: a bar devoted to craft beers, set within the newly renovated Bustolini’s building.

“At the start, we had the city’s blessing, which was why we dug so deep into it,” Rob recollected, as he twisted his perfectly waxed mustache. “We took the right steps, and got a positive City Staff Review. In applying for our ABC license— doing mailed, public, and legal notices of intent—we didn’t get any negative feedback. This was all back in November 2012.”

As most Chicoans already know, there were some unexpected obstacles. Following the public outcry to curb alcohol abuse, Police Chief Kirk Trostle stonewalled their quest to receive a beer & wine license. Combined with those other well-documented alcohol issues (Trostle’s eccentric list of new restrictions on drinking establishments, and the suspiciously easy installment of BevMo), the charged local atmosphere quickly launched these guys and their beautiful building into the spotlight. Rob and Steven had become unwitting poster-boys of the hot new controversy: local business owners vs. ‘The Man.’

This unforeseen struggle to actually open began about three months ago, and after numerous meetings resulting in hard-earned ‘words of recommendation’ from the Chief of Police and from Building Director Mark Wolfe, it’s now winding down. “Thank God, we’re almost finished,” Steven said. “Now we can finally start!”

Both Rob and Steven spoke to me at length of the unexpected benefits of their three months of trials and tribulations—perhaps the most notable of which is their new first-name-basis with Police Chief Trostle. “Really, he’s a great guy,” Rob said. “He’s only human. He wants the same things we all want. After he released that list of restrictions—which was really only meant to spark a conversation—he got to sit and listen to people bitch at him for three hours straight. That’s a regular part of his job. He’s got a tough fucking gig.”

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“Besides that connection, all sorts of people started introducing themselves to us,” Steven added. “Everyone wanted to lend us their support, whether through their personal craftsmanship, or just through kind words… It was amazing to see these months of intense effort be totally reciprocated by the community, even before our doors were open.”

As I listened to my mustachio’d friends, I discreetly let my eyes wander over the interior. The longer I stayed in there, the more impressed I became with their transformation of what used to be Bustolini’s—gone was the bland green and gray color scheme; gone was the old, grimy glass case for deli foods. The building had become basically unrecognizable, in the best ways possible.

New lighting, new counters, new copper-inlaid ceiling, new chairs (seemingly hand-assembled)… everything set in warm wooden tones that contrasted with the brick walls to create a clean, classy, relaxed place to drink beer. “The Banshee and The Handlebar—they both have elements of what we’re creating here in terms of the business strategy,” Rob offered, once he saw my attention wandering over the walls and ceilings. “But we definitely fill a new niche when it comes to this interior. We worked really hard to create something special to look at and experience.”

Honestly, the changes they’ve made to the building struck such a classic, rustic note with me that I daresay they’re going to do great business here, even if they were only providing craft beer (there’s a lunch menu, too). The longer a customer stays in an establishment, the more money they spend—and The Winchester Goose is a place you want to spend time in. The long history of the building was now apparent in its design, and that history embraced everyone inside in its classic mystique.

Even if they had been refused in the end, and The Winchester Goose ultimately not allowed to open its doors, Rob Rasner and Steven Hall would have already benefited our community in a big way by bringing this downtown building back to life. Their passion, and their devotion to the craft, and the beauty of what they’d made so far—it all begged the question: what is BevMo going to do to better our community, aside from providing another place to purchase liquor cheaply? Aren’t young local entrepreneurs, like the two in front of me, the most deserving of our city’s approval and support?

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Howl was born in the wastes north of Hithlum, where only beasts and witches dare roam. He was raised by two old hags, Tabby and Wiles, who had an unhealthy fascination towards the literary arts. Howl now resides in a well-furnished cave off South Rim Trail, complete with an old iBook and Wi-Fi.

Comments

  1. juanita says:

    Trostle is a great guy? That is some serious ass-kissing there Rob.