Jeramey Jannene
MKE County

Bradford Beach Restaurant Advancing

Concessionaire plans to add full-service restaurant to historic beach house.

By - Jan 26th, 2021 01:16 pm
Bradford Beach house. Photo taken by Carl Baehr.

Bradford Beach house. Photo taken by Carl Baehr.

Bradford Beach concessionaire Dock Bradford is advancing a plan to turn the historic beach house into a restaurant, but would maintain public access to restrooms and other facilities.

A modular bar would be constructed on the open-air second level of the structure. Seating would be added to both levels, but the company dropped plans to add shipping containers to the facility after the Historic Preservation Commission rejected the proposal in August.

“The only actual infrastructure would be that modular bar,” said Dock Bradford partner Nick Hynes. An existing kitchen on the first floor would be maintained.

Individuals would not be able to sit in any of the new chairs without being a dining customer. Existing seating, including the more heavily used benches in the southeast corner, would remain open to the public. The restaurant will provide table service.

Hynes said the upper floor is rarely used, an opinion backed by Supervisor Liz Sumner who said she visited the beach multiple times in 2020.

Hynes said he didn’t view the proposal as taking anything away from anyone, but instead adding an amenity.

The bridge that crosses N. Lincoln Memorial Dr. will continue to be open to the public. “We encourage for it to be open,” said Hynes. “It actually hurt us last year when it wasn’t open.” The bridge was closed for repairs in 2020.

Fourteen individuals submitted letters in objection, raising concerns about what was characterized as the privatization of the beach.

“The lease clearly requires public access,” said Milwaukee County Parks director of administration and planning Jeremy Lucas. “That is grossly overexaggerated as far as a concern.”

Pushed for further clarification, Lucas doubled down. “The beach is not for sale,” he said. “It is open to all.”

“Now that I’ve seen the plans for what will be done here I go ‘this looks reasonable,'” said Supervisor Jason Haas. He said similar concerns were raised with beer gardens in parks.

The Illinois-based company won a Milwaukee County request for proposals in 2019, replacing SURG Restaurant Group, and operates the existing cabanas on the beach.

Hynes and partner Luke Cholodecki, operating as CCH Management, got their start as concessionaires at Chicago’s Montrose Beach.

Supervisor Steven Shea said it was important to continue to hold vendors’ “feet to the fire” to make sure no county assets are surrendered.

But the item before the Parks, Environment and Energy Committee was informational only. No vote was to be taken.

“We have no role at this time,” said committee chair Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman, the committee chair. The city must approve any building permits, after Dock Bradford submits structural calculations for the shipping container bar. Through the approved concessionaire contract, the parks department has oversight.

Lucas said Dock Bradford was a good partner with the beach’s volleyball operator and The Ability Center, which led the installation of accessibility improvements in 2020.

The contract with the county requires Dock Bradford to make rent payments totaling $100,000 over the length of the five-year contract. Three one-year mutual extensions are available with a price of $20,000 each. If sales exceed $400,000 in a given year, Dock Bradford is to remit 5% of sales. That amount increases to 5.5% in 2024.

Additionally, Dock Bradford must contribute $70,000 in the first two years of the lease to a park improvement fund, plus 1% of gross sales annually starting in 2021.

“I think there is a tremendous amount of misinformation out there,” said Wasserman. He said the hearing helped illuminate what was actually happening. “Having this meeting today deals with the reality.”

A second public meeting regarding the proposal is scheduled for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. by the Lakefront Development Advisory Commission.

The beach house, 2400 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr., was constructed in 1950 according to city records.


Historic Preservation Commission Partially Rejected Plans

One thought on “MKE County: Bradford Beach Restaurant Advancing”

  1. gerrybroderick says:

    Another sad encroachment on a publicly owned asset by corporate interests. Destination restaurants on our precious lakefront are clearly prohibited by The Public Trust Doctrine as enshrined in our State Constitution. Unfortunately, a significant number of our State Supreme Court justices have been bought and paid for by those same corporate interests, so enforcing the public interest in matters like this through the courts becomes a questionable attempt at redress.

    This is not only an unfortunate, but logical, extension of Chris Abele’s misguided attempts to force basic public amenities like parks pay for themselves, but a further indication of a diminishing democracy. Unless, of course, corporations are now accepted as being”of, by and for the people”.

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