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Pine Cone Diner In DeForest Closes With Political Lie, Owner Took Nearly Half-Million In Fed $$

September 17, 2021

While living in Madison over the past decades I have known two of my favorite restaurants to close. In both cases there was a high degree of resolve to meet and greet long-time customers and share memories. There were efforts made to go out of business with class.

When Wong’s Chinese Garden closed on Atwood Avenue Gah Yuen Wong and his wife, Lan gave out hugs and poured cups of tea as conversations flowed. Over the years I would often joke that his wife needed a pay raise, and Wong often reached into his pockets and told me he had no money.  Lan leaned on the counter and smiled as she has heard our vaudeville routine many times.

La Rocca’s on Williamson Street was a joy as entering was akin to going into someone’s home.  Over the years the owner, Vito, told us of his family who had come from Sicily and why his food was homemade. In my view, it was awesomely authentic. His last day was like a favorite family leaving the neighborhood. Smiles, hugs, and of course Caternia had tears in her eyes.

Such memories are part of the food experience as it is important for such places to end with grace.

That was not the case, however, in DeForest when the Pine Cone Restaurant closed with a sign on the door that was rude and totally a political lie.

The owner of the establishment, John McKay, just like every other restaurant owner in the state faced the same hardships during the ongoing pandemic. Like most business owners he also benefited from the at-times bi-partisan efforts to pump money into the economy and help ensure workers were kept afloat.

As such McKay and the Pine Cone got two Paycheck Protection Program loans, one in 2020 and one this year, totaling $464,040, according to PPP data. The data show the restaurant had 32 employees during the applicable loan period.

So it was the height of having no grace when McKay placed a sign on the door of the diner with a most outrageous lie.

The sign reads like a political stunt from AM-talk radio.

“Due to the decisions of your state government (Evers) and your federal government (Biden), The Pine Cone has been forced to close its doors after 40 years. Thanks for all your support” 

The truth came out when the media started to make inquiries into the matter.

McKay said Thursday the real reason he closed the truck stop restaurant at 6162 Highway 51, was because his lease was up.

It’s just strictly the lease. Our lease was up after 40 years. … Got old and got tired.”

It is disturbing when facts are so easily tossed aside so to feed the narrative that conservatives wish to foment. It is also rather unsightly, when knowing many business people across the country were thankful for the assistance from the federal and state governments, to learn that a local one took the money and was not grateful.

The Wongs and Vito’s family came to this country and for decades ran successful restaurants. When they closed the door on their places for the last time it was surely with mixed feelings.

But it was done with class.

And so it goes.

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