Bar May Finally End 43-Year-Old Tradition of Screening Porn on Weekends

A Wisconsin dive bar called Bennett’s Meadowood Country Club has been offering "porn in the morn" since 1977.
May 28, 2020, 10:06pm
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Photo courtesy of Bennett’s Meadowood Country Club Facebook

For more than 40 years, a Wisconsin bar has hosted something it calls "Smut and Eggs" every Saturday and Sunday morning, which gives its customers the opportunity to eat reasonably priced breakfast specials while watching hardcore porn in a room filled with bleary-eyed semi-strangers.

"Why porn? Why not?" Gene Bennett, the now-late owner of Bennett’s Meadowood Country Club, told a Madison news outlet several years ago. “It’s better than a gay bar. You can put that in the fucking paper if you want.”

Despite the name, Bennett's isn't a country club. It's a bar down the street from a couple of auto body shops and an HVAC repair company, with a brick chimney and a cupola that are slightly at odds with the Heileman's Old Style Beer sign mounted on the roof (and the "Celebrating 40 Years of Porn in the Morn!" banner that was once casually draped underneath the windows.)

So yes, from 6 a.m until noon on weekends, Bennett's shows a curated assortment of skin flicks from its own 8,0000-hour collection (it has previously specified that it doesn't air "men-on-men pornography") and serves menu items with names like "Eggs Bennett-Dick" and it's fine, it's all fine, and it's covered by the bar's entertainment establishment license.

But on a Sunday afternoon in late January, before we were all torn away from our favorite dives from the hell contagion known as coronavirus, Bennett's hosted what it described as "an all-female revue," but some attendees described as "a sex show." Regardless, the Isthmus reported that the show featured three female strippers, who crawled across the bar, allowed customers to lick whipped cream off their bodies, and would take paying guests "behind a tarp" for private lap dances.

At the time, the bar manager said that it was legal for the bar to host the live show, because it had a burlesque license. But the city says that kind of license isn't a thing in Madison, and those three strippers could cost Bennett's its ability to serve booze, screen its porn flicks, or both.

On Wednesday, Madison’s Alcohol License and Review Committee (ALRC) "reluctantly recommended" the renewal of Bennett's alcohol and adult entertainment licenses, under the condition that it doesn't ever repeat that live performance. But according to the Wisconsin State Journal, some ALRC members have "extreme concern” about Bennett's, and they're debating how to handle it.

The City Council has to approve license renewals at their meeting next week, and the city's attorneys are worried that they don't have time to schedule a non-renewal hearing between now and then; the only other option would be to hold a hearing later this year to revoke Bennett's license.

“I’m looking at a non-renewal when we bring them back or significant restrictions in the licensing,” ALRC member Fernando Cano Ospina said. "I really need to hear plans, ideas, what they’re going to do to make it a good business that follows the law every single day."

Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Zilavy said that she sent Bennett's a cease-and-desist in 2018 after learning about its plan to host an event that featured strippers, and that some of Bennett's social media pages mentioned the possibility that strippers could become a regular thing at the bar.

Joseph Klein, the attorney representing Bennett's said that the bar had only held that one event, and that the strippers wouldn't be doing an encore, ever. (The Journal added that Klein was totally unaware that Bennett's had received a previous cease-and-desist, even though he was their attorney at the time.)

The fate of "Smut & Eggs" seems to hinge on who the ALRC believes: whether it will listen to the city attorneys who suggest that the bar has been a repeat offender, and whether it read the interview with the bar manager who said that Bennett's had a stripper show every January, or talked to the longtime customer who said that he'd been watching live nudes at the bar for "15 or 20 years." Or will they take Klein's word, when he says that, going forward, the only sex acts at the bar will be the ones that are a part of its video library. (VICE has reached out to both Zilavy and Klein for comment.)

When contacted by phone, a Bennett's employee told VICE that the bar had reopened and yes, it will be showing porn this weekend. Better get your Smut and Eggs while you still can.